Well as you may know by now mindfulness has made the cover of Time Magazine. This means that mindfulness has arrived, right? When I first heard this I said to myself something I said to myself over a decade ago which was “this practice is going to reach the mainstream world, it something we sorely need right now.” But watching a short clip on MSNBC made me curious about whether it’s being conveyed in a way where people are going to truly get the benefit that the science of mindfulness promises.
Let me explain.
At times I’m a sucker for acronyms and when I find one where the name fits what it is trying to spell out I grab onto it. A few months ago I heard an acronym that knocked my socks off and spoke to the underlying secrets of healthy living and happiness. Dan Siegel, MD is a renowned neuropsychiatrist and author of many books, the latest being Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain where this incredibly relevant acronym is spelled out. In this book he explores what we know about the adolescent brain and how to navigate these critical years for optimal health and happiness for teens and parents.
Dan will be in San Diego on Saturday, February 8th delivering a talk to the public at the Bridging the Hearts and Mind of Youth Conference.
The brilliant acronym is ESSENCE and we can all take a lesson from it.
What makes men happy? In 1938 Harvard University began a research study that followed 268 male undergraduate students and began the longest-running longitudinal study of human development in history. Now, George Vaillant, MD, who headed the study for more than 30 years, published the study’s findings in his book Triumphs of Experience: The Men of the Harvard Grant Study.
After 75 years and twenty million dollars, Vaillant sums up the findings of what makes men happy in five words:
Over 10 years ago I had a realization that we walk through life often times unaware of all the sacred moments that are there. I was curious whether we could become more aware of these moments as they were happening and also were they possible to cultivate? After conducting a national research study I found that not only can we train ourselves to be more aware of them and we can also cultivate meaningful moments. Not only that it’s associated with stress reduction and increased well-being, but all the interviews pointed to a common theme of feeling more connected to life.
What is sacred in life is right in front of us and we often time don’t realize it until it’s passed. We’re “too busy” in our own heads to see it.
Now I’m going to share it with you.
Perhaps the 13th Sufi poet Rumi said it best, “Don’t turn away. Keep your gaze on the bandaged place. That’s where the light enters.” The entrance into all that’s beautiful in life is in what’s vulnerable. When something or someone is vulnerable before us we feel connected and connection is at the essence of feel well. This is because ultimately all things and people in life are connected and to feel connection is a feeling of belonging, it’s a feeling of being home. But to feel vulnerable we have to be brave and in this lies the freedom we long for.
The problem is our brains and our culture equates vulnerability with weakness. One of my newest favorite researchers and authors Brene Brown says, “Vulnerability sounds like
One of the secrets to wiring our brain toward happiness is in the simple understanding that what we practice and repeat starts to become more automatic. Call it a happiness or resiliency habit and it’s something that anyone can create. We all have thoughts and behaviors in our lives that lend themselves toward unhappiness, a neutral state, or happiness. While the brain defaults toward paying attention to negative stimuli to keep us safe, we are active participants in our health and well-being and can nurture a happier and more resilient brain.
Here’s a suggestion to start with that comes from the 365 Daily Now Moments:
Our most fundamental need in life is to be safe. When we feel safe, the body relaxes, we become more flexible in the way we see life and are generally happier. But throughout life we all suffer different traumas and feel vulnerable. Maybe we were made fun as a child at school, were a child of divorce, felt inadequate as a parent or perhaps suffered more severe traumas such as some form of physical or sexual abuse. All of these are now reference points for your brain to bring up from time to time arousing feelings of insecurity and vulnerability.
How to we heal insecurity and feel safe again?
I’m going to give you a simple acronym to play with that builds on the practice that Christopher Germer, PhD and Kristen Neff PhD use to cultivate self-compassion called “Soften, Soothe, Allow.” The new acronym of S.A.F.E which I’ll explain in a moment, integrates the ability to inquire a bit deeper into the vulnerability that is there and expands a wiser, more secure awareness of our common humanity.
The acronym for this practice is S.A.F.E:
Everyone has tough days and for some the days seem to be a never ending string of murkiness. All of our mental afflictions, stress, anxiety, depression, addictive urges and trauma responses are experienced as contractions in the body. An antidote to this would naturally be opening the body up and that is one among many reasons why yoga can be helpful. But to take it one step further, laughter opens our bodies up, vibrates core areas where the stuck energy resides while simultaneously igniting resiliency centers of the brain.
Do yourself a favor, simply watch this 3-minute video and see what you notice:
Here’s another Daily Now Moment that if spread around can have tremendous ripple effects in your relationships, communities and beyond.
The ancient Greek writer Aesop left us with these words:
“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”
Be on the lookout for kindness in others today. You may find more of it in the world than you think is there.
Then, try bringing more intentionality to your own acts of kindness.
We may not always get it back, but in the long run this simple practice primes your mind for good and can be life changing.
Try it out today.
Elisha Goldstein, PhD
Little brothers embracing photo available from Shutterstock
Find some food today with which to truly engage in mindful eating.
Please don’t let this pass you by, make it your
Eat slightly slower than normal and give yourself the chance to really taste the food.
Consider all the people and natural elements like wind, dirt, rain and sunshine that went into creating this food that is now being used as nourishment (and maybe joy).
Research has shown that our brains have a natural negativity bias, more prone to attend to what’s difficult. Take this moment to create some balance and prime your mind toward the goodness in your life.
Make this a practice and watch the ripple effects unfold.
Elisha Goldstein, PhD
Eating watermelon photo available from Shutterstock