Play, Soul Pancake and Building Your Anti-Depressant Brain

By Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. • 3 min read

For years now I’ve been studying about what helps create more resilience and happiness within us. I’ve looked to my own life, the life of my clients and students and toward the psychological and neuroscience research. What I’ve found is happiness dharmacomicsthat within each and every one of us are a core set of natural anti-depressants that when we intentionally tap into shifts our brain activity in ways that can lend itself to an anti-depressant brain. One of the natural anti-depressants that I’ve come to find that helps break a bad mood and create positive neural activity is Play!

In Uncovering Happiness: Overcoming Depression with Mindfulness and Self-Compassion I describe play as “a flexible state of mind in which you are presently engaged in some freely chosen and potentially purposeless activity that you find interesting, enjoyable, and satisfying.”

Here’s a great video that shows adults playing and the results. Take a look and see what you notice.

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Mindfulness Can Quiet Down the A**Hole Voice in Our Heads

By Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. • 1 min read

I was recently interviewing Dan Harris, author of 10% Happier for an upcoming online symposium on Uncovering Happiness. I really enjoyed spending time with him is-it-true-is-it-helpful
rapping about what happiness is really about and why mindfulness and compassion can help inspire it. But one of the things that really made me laugh was when he said it can stop you from being an A-hole.

It’s so true and here’s how.

Our inner voices can be a real pain sometimes, critiquing us, telling us what we can’t do or what will go wrong if we try. We wouldn’t want friends that spoke to us this way, so why do we tolerate these voices? They create irritability which only goes onto reinforce the A-holes in our minds. As I mention in my upcoming book Uncovering Happiness, this is a big part of what drives the depression loop.

In a study a few years back Norman Farb and his colleagues at the University of Toronto published a study that showed how practicing mindfulness meditation reduced activity in the part of the brain associated with a wandering and critical mind. This was

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5 Mindful Steps to a more Grateful (and Happy) Life

By Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. • 1 min read

Thanksgiving is upon us in the United States. little things

There is no better moment than now while reading these words to consider what you are thankful for. In fact, there is actually no other moment than now.

The poet Hafiz writes in his poem “It Felt Love”:

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A Mindful Gift from Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay) to All of Us

By Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. • 2 min read

thich-nhat-hanhLast week I wrote about Thich Nhat Hanh’s brain hemorrhage landing him in the hospital. The most recent update from Plum Village shows that while his condition is still in a critical stage he has opened his eyes and even reached out to touch the attendant next to him. In continuing this time of honoring his life I wanted to share with you one of the gifts he has given me that I often share with others.

These are the short phrases he weaves into breathing or walking that helps us be more present, loving, grounded, and aware in daily life. If you don’t already, consider trying these out as an experiment in your daily life and seeing what you notice.

For example,

  • You may take three steps while breathing in and say “Breathing in, I calm my body” and then with the following three steps “Breathing out, I relax.” You can then shorten this to saying “calm” as you breathe in, and “relax” as you breathe out.
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Thich Nhat Hanh is in the Hospital, But He Will Never Leave Us

By Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. • 1 min read

YesterdayI received a message that one of the greatest mindfulness and compassion teachers to grace this planet was in the hospital after experiencing a “severe brain hemorrage.” Signs show that he may pull through, but what a scare this has been for those who have been blessed by the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh. If you’ve been a reader of this blog or alive possibelany of my work you may know how much he has influenced my work and my life. Thich Nhat Hanh or Thay as his followers call him is/was a sort of prophet of awakening and hope.

He said, “Because you are alive, everything is possible.”

He reminded us of the sacred ground we live on and how to walk on it:

“Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.”

He lived with wisdom and compassion and shared with us how we can oo, even with the difficult people in our lives:

“When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment; he needs help. That’s the message he is sending.”

He revealed to us the simple yet powerful ways to ignite the joy that’s within each of us:

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”

He conveyed to reality of our authentic beauty and of radical self-acceptance:

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Can Meditation be Dangerous?

By Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. • 2 min read

This is a story of Zen master, professor, poet, and essayist, Louis Nordstrom. stripes

Over 35 years ago Louis renounced his tenure as a professor in philosophy and robed up to begin his life as a monk. In an NY Times interview with Chip Brown, Nordstrom conveyed some insights into the connection between his trauma and abandonment as a child that revealed a hidden motive in his work with meditation.

He said:

“The Zen experience of forgetting the self was very natural to me,” he told me last fall. “I had already been engaged in forgetting and abandoning the self in my childhood, which was filled with the fear of how unreal things seemed.”

For Nordstrom, meditation felt like a natural fit as there was a familiarity and calmness that came from detaching from thoughts,

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Top 5 Myths about Mindfulness Meditation

By Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. • 3 min read

Do you know the myths about mindfulness and what is true or false about this swelling revolution? Take a look at what I think are the top five myths about mindfulness.top-5-banner

Note: There are plenty more, but I thought these top the charts.

Myth #1: Mindfulness if for taking a time-out from life, quieting the mind and reducing stress.

Truth: I think this is the #1 myth out there because it’s my experience that this is how people initially experience the practice. One of the greatest entry points to mindfulness in the West is Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). This is a fantastic program with wonderful science behind it, but the name is just for marketing. The ultimate goal isn’t meant to be stress reduction. The goal of mindfulness and MBSR is to wake up to the inner workings of our mental, emotional and physical processes, recognize the connectedness between people and operate in the world with greater self-compassion and compassion.

However, the initial practices can often give people sense of relief from a busy mind and can then be equated with a mental break. While there’s nothing wrong with using it this way, it also minimizes the power of mindfulness.

The paradox here is when we’re able to do just be present to our minds, emotions and bodies, the stressful relationship tends to quiet down, but when we try and quiet the mind down, we often add fuel to the fire.

Myth #2: You need to carve out plenty of time in a serene “mindful” space.

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MBCT for Depression Anywhere, Anytime: An Interview with Zindel Segal, PhD

By Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. • 3 min read

Over a decade ago, Zindel Segal, Mark Williams and John Teasdale developed Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) for helping people not relapse into MindfulNoggin_email_addepression. Over time study after study has come out showing the positive impact MBCT has in relapse depression. I’ve taught this program many many times and have seen the transformative power of it firsthand. At the same time I would get emails from people across the country asking if I knew if it was in their area. Often times it wasn’t, but now Zindel Segal and Sona Dimidjian have solved that problem.

Today, Zindel talks to us about a new online program called Mindful Noggin that can bring MBCT to you anywhere, anytime.

Elisha: The Mindful Noggin is a great name, what exactly is it and how do you see it pushing the needle forward on integrating MBCT into our daily lives?

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The Neuroscience of Bad Habits and Why It’s Not About Will Power

By Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. • 2 min read

Why are bad habits so hard to break? What if the bumper sticker “Just Say No!” actually works against us? If willpower were the answer to breaking bad habits then we decisionswouldn’t have drug addiction or obesity. There’s something going on in our brains where we literally lose the ability for self-control, but all hope isn’t lost.

Nora Volkow, head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse calls the phrase “Just Say No!” “magical thinking.”

It appears that dopamine is one of the main chemicals regulating the pleasure center of the brain. At the most basic level, it regulates motivation — it sends signals to receptors in the brain saying, “This feels good!”

Whether you’re a heroin addict and you see an association to heroin, you’re a caffeine addict and you see a cup of coffee, you’re a Smartphone addict and you see another person pick up their phone, or if you’re hungry and you see some good-looking food, your brain rushes with dopamine and that is now caught on brain-scanning machines.

The fascinating thing is that Volkow has found that  the images alone affect the rise of dopamine in our brains. So if we pass a McDonald’s and see the arches, our brain associates that with a tasty hamburger (for some) and shoots up dopamine. That good feeling will unconsciously drive the motivation to go in and get a Big Mac. It’s a conditioned response. The same goes for anything including most likely our relationships to our phones.

What can we do? 

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The Horse is Technology, But the Rider is on Auto-Pilot

By Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. • 2 min read

You wake up the morning and before saying hi to anyone in the house you say hi to your phone. Walking on the way to the bathroom you make sure to grab your phone toonline check any messages on the way. Slowing down at the stoplight in the car is an invitation to see if you have any messages and perhaps even begin responding. At lunch we make sure to have it with us. Waiting anywhere is a cue to engage anything on the phone. Before going to bed it’s the last thing we kiss goodnight.

There’s a very subtle, and for some, not-so-subtle habitual relationship with our technology. I could easily make the argument that most of us have an addiction to our screens. In China there are currently 400 intensive treatment center for web addiction. An entire documentary called Web Junkie has been created to chronicle this issue there (Note: I’ll be at the Laemmle Music Hall in Los Angeles, California on October 5th doing a Q&A after this screening). Many of us may not feel we have a web addiction, but in truth, most of us have some form of this.

In a recent talk the Vietnamese Buddhist Monk, Thich Nhat Hanh compared technology to a horse and said we’re currently riding it. When someone walks up and says to the rider, “Where are you going?” The rider looks at the person and replies, “I don’t know, ask the horse.” There it is, we have lost control of technology, it’s driving us, and we are no longer driving it.

The reality is, technology isn’t a positive or negative force in our lives, it’s technology. But, like riding a horse, we have to learn how to harness it to make good use of it.

To harness your relationship with technology, take a short inventory:

In what ways does my relationship to technology distract me or stress me out?

What information am I taking in that isn’t nourishing to my life or well-being?

Do I use technology to cover up my loneliness?

Does my relationship to technology take me away from friends and family?

When does it feel like technology is stealing time away from taking care of myself?

For many of us technology creates “micro-disconnections” from ourselves, our loved ones and the beauty of the world. But it also has the power to facilitate connection within ourselves, connections to mindfulness, enhancement of compassion and support to those in need foster “micro-connections.”

The choice is in our hands right now.

It’s not about ditching technology, it’s about being intentional with our relationship to it to use it for good. For most of us, if we choose to allow routine to continue, the horse will drive our personal lives. But we can set an intention each day in how we want to use this technology in ways that enhance connection and well-being.

Ask yourself:

How do I or can I use technology to take care of myself?

How do I or can I use technology to help me foster connection?

Let’s gather as a community right now, how do you use technology for good? In what ways do you feel like it steals your time?

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.



 

 

Books and CDs by Dr. Elisha Goldstein:
Mindfulness Meditations for the Anxious Traveler: Quick Exercises to Calm Your Mind

The Now Effect: How This Moment Can Change The Rest of Your Life
A Mindfulness-Based
Stress Reduction Workbook
 

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