Archives for December, 2011
Christy Matta, MA is a fellow Psychcentral blogger, has worked in mental health for almost 20 years and has a confession, “I am an anxious traveler.” Millions of people struggle with anxiety around traveling in one form or another and right now we’re in the peak period of the year in regards to air travel. I have a tip to help find freedom from anxiety that comes out of the new short enhanced eBook (fancy term that refers to an eBook including video instruction within the book available on IPad, Nook, and Kindle) Mindful Meditations for the Anxious Traveler. I created this $.99 enhanced eBook to be a mindful companion along the journey to more peaceful and restful travel: Here’s the tip:
With the moments of life seemingly becoming more fleeting, there's never been a more important time to cultivate or become more aware of the meaning in our lives. Therese Borchard, author of Beyond Blue: Surviving Depression & Anxiety and Making the Most of Bad Genes, wrote a past post 7 Ways to Prevent Burnout. In this blog she summed up a book by one of her favorite authors, Robert Wicks, who laid out a path toward integrating spirituality into daily life in an effort to prevent stress and live the lives we want. Definitely worth the read and if you have any aversion to the word "God" or "spirituality," just replace that term with "higher self" and see how that works. In 2005, I conducted a national study in an effort to see if people could in fact cultivate what I called "sacred moments" and see what effect that had on their stress and well-being. Lo and behold, in practicing 5 minutes a day for 5 days a week, for 3 weeks, there was a significant positive effect in stress reduction and well-being. What was so fascinating to me was that for many it allowed them to touch a sense of spirituality when they felt they had never been able to do this before. A quote from one participant:
So you spent your life working hard in elementary school, maybe pushing through to university and thought, well once I land this job then I’ll be happy, or once I get married, then I’ll be happy, or once I get a divorce, then I’ll be happy. The reality is, the conditions for happiness are all right here, right now, but it’s not enough to say, “Just dip into the now and happiness will arise.” There are too many conditioned forces at play from past experiences that compromise the ability for “the now” to be a source of happiness. But we can train our minds to relate to “the now” in a particular way and train our minds toward happiness.
It seems like an increasing phenomenon that a number of individuals are finding themselves with a psychic emptiness at some point in life. There is some kind of dissatisfaction, an uncertainty as to why they feel so unhappy and what will help them feel more complete. This runs rampant with people who have acquired some kind of success in life and find their minds saying, now what? Some people call this a mid-life crisis, but it can happen at all different times of life. What’s missing? Albert Einstein once said: "Try not to become a man of success but rather a man of value." Today we’re driving our kids more than ever to be “successful.” But what does this really mean? Somewhere along the line we’ve become confused as a culture and lost sight of what really matters. The test is simple, what makes us feel good? Not in a hedonistic way, but more in line with the Greek term eudaimonia. This can be translated more as a meaningful happiness.
There is no doubt about it, today's business is a round-the-clock atmosphere. We are hounded with external pressures, overwhelmed with information overload, asked to deliver more with less, work longer hours, and have less personal time for renewal activities. What is the result? Self-inflicted attention deficit disorder, exhaustion, lack of focus, reduced health, and burnout. This leads to lower job satisfaction, morale, and productivity. Hardly the results we want. Did you know that over 50% of the workforce in the US says Job Stress is a major problem in life? This is twice as much as ten years ago. We also have 50% greater healthcare expenditures and corporations are losing over $300 Billion annually because of work-related stress! What's going on here? In an age of so much distraction, the old approach of time management at work is being thrown out the window in favor of attention management.
A past article on NPR explores the age old question of whether it's therapeutic to act on your anger. Alex Spigel writes about a woman in San Diego who has built a store for the sole purpose of letting people in, covering them in protective gear, and giving them plates to smash to vent their anger. He then brings up new research by professor Jeffrey Lohr of the University of Arkansas that points to evidence that says venting this anger isn't effective and the anger just continues to return. I love Alex Spigel, but sometimes these topics can be oversimplified. It's kind of like much of the spirituality research out there that measures level of spirituality by church attendance. Just because someone goes to church doesn't mean they're spiritual, they could be doing it out of family obligation or a longing for community. What's not explicitly spelled out here is the difference between anger and aggression. Just because someone is expressing anger, it doesn't mean they are aggressive or hostile. He points to this briefly when he says "Now, to be clear, Lohr isn't pro-repression. Repression, he says, can also be bad for you. The key is to speak out your anger without getting emotional about it. Basically, we're not supposed to yell at anyone anymore." To be clearer, there is absolutely nothing wrong with feeling or expressing anger. Whenever we're frustrated or irritated we are feeling angry. We can be angry for a myriad of things from our partners making plans for us without asking to being abused as a child. How we express this anger does make a difference.
Jack Kornfield stands alongside an esteemed group of elders such as Thich Nhat Hanh, Sharon Salzberg, Pema Chodron, and Joseph Goldstein in bringing mindfulness to the west. Not only that, he also holds his PhD in clinical Psycholog,y which makes him so relevant to the connection between mindfulness and psychotherapy. He co-founded Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts and is a founding teacher of the well known retreat center Spirit Rock, in Woodacre, Ca. He has taught in Centers and University settings worldwide with teachers such as Thich Nhat Hanh and the Dalai Lama. He is also author of many widely popular books translated in over 20 languages, his most recent are Bringing Home the Dharma and A Lamp in the Darkness. Others include, A Path with Heart, The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness, and Peace, After the Ecstasy, the Laundry and his newest book The Wise Heart: A Guide to the Universal Teachings of Buddhist Psychology. Today he talks with us about the connection between East and West psychology, his work with Dr. Dan Siegel, and how his own trauma in life has influenced his work with himself and others.