My Mindfulness Heroes

Over the past 30 years, I’ve studied mind-body health with many teachers and learned many things. Today’s blog is a tribute to all my teachers whether I studied with them in person or not. They include Dr. Deepak Chopra, Dr. Wayne Dyer, Dr. Joan Borysenko, Dr. Alice Doemar, Dr. Ronald Siegel, Dr. David Burns, Leonie Wolff, RN, WHNP., Slyvia Weber, RN, Clinical Nurse Specialist in Psychiatry, and Carolyn Myss,  Here are their words of wisdom that have stuck with me over the years, influencing me in the way I provide care as a psychologist and the way I lead my life. They are my heroes.

  1. Dr. Deepak Chopra: “What we think about expands; What we stop thinking about contracts.” Although I understand this completely now, it took me a while. When you start thinking about what you want instead of what you don’t want, life gets easier and you enjoy your life more. My clients are always surprised when they discover that when they stop their automatic negative thinking about their life and what’s going to go wrong, they feel less depressed and anxious.
  2. Dr. Wayne Dyer: “The past is like a wake that a boat leaves behind” when it’s moving forward. I may not have said that exactly, but I was spellbound when I first heard it. So, many of us make ourselves miserable dwelling on the past and what could have been. In fact, the more we dwell on regrets we have about the past, we feel more depressed, hopeless and lack the motivation and energy to change. When we worry about the future, we feel anxious and overwhelmed. Research indicates that meditation and mindfulness which focus on paying attention to the moment we’re in reduce anxiety, depression and the release of stress hormones. 
  3. Dr. Ronald Siegel: “The mind is like an unruly puppy that wanders aimlessly and we have to learn to tame it” or we’re at its mercy. This is how I truly began to understand mindfulness and how I could teach it. Ron brings these ideas down to earth and his book “The Mindfulness Solution: Everyday Practices to Everyday Problems” is golden. Like the first 2 tips, we learn to intentionally put our attention on what’s occurring in the present moment instead of dwelling on unpleasant thoughts, feelings or experiences from our past or imagined unpleasant thoughts, feelings and sensations about future events. With time and practice, you can do it!

So, you’ve learned some words of wisdom from a few of my teachers. Now, take their words and put them into practice in real life to stress less and live better. 

I’m also dedicating this post to my daughter Rachel who’s been my whole social media staff and IT person. I couldn’t do it without you! Love-mom

Here’s a few more life lessons from Zen the cat (https://www.instagram.com/thezenkitty/)

Learning to Be-friend Yourself

With Valentine’s Day later this week, we often think about being kinder and more loving towards our partners, friends and family members. But, we rarely think about including ourselves on the list. In fact we are often more critical and rejecting of ourselves and our bad qualities and habits than anyone else in our lives. Chances are that if you’re criticizing yourself for where you’re falling short and telling yourself that you’re failing, improving your health and well-being will be much harder.

Why is this? Because studies show that feeling someone is cheering you on or being encouraging of you, makes it more likely that you will be inclined to stick to the changes you’re trying to make. We know that feeling supported is key in helping us adjust to changes in our lives including new parenthood or moving to a new city. Still, many of us are automatically self-critical and feel negatively towards ourselves without even thinking. To help you be kinder and gentler to yourself and more likely to continue with taking steps to stress less and live better, try these 3 tips.

  1. Befriend yourself. Instead of being self-critical, think about the words you would say to a good friend who was trying to change something about his/her life. You would never say to them like you do to yourself, “You’re a loser. You never finish anything you start. You’re just lazy, etc, etc.” Instead, you’d more likely be comforting and reassuring, even encouraging. Pretend you’re talking to them and use the words you’d say to them. It will help you feel better and improve your chance of succeeding at the changes you’re making.
  2. Make self-criticism less automatic. Often we don’t realize that we’re thinking negatively about ourselves until we start to pay attention to it. What we tend to notice first is that we’re feeling bad or down or not motivated. Start asking yourself what thoughts you’re having when your mood changes and becomes more negative. Many of my clients are surprised how frequently they have self-critical or self-rejecting thoughts when they keep track of them. Several who have been addressing this in counseling, told me recently that the more they replace these negative, self-critical thoughts with what they’d say to a friend, the better they feel, so give it a try. 
  3. Practice self-compassion. In fact, the definition of mindfulness is paying attention to the present moment on purpose without judgement. I say “with self-compassion.” This means that you extend the same lovingkindness to yourself that you do all your loved ones. One of my favorite ways to do this is to repeat to myself this lovingkindness meditation from Dr. Joan Borysenko that goes, “May I be at peace. May my heart remain open. May I know the beauty of my own true nature. May I be healed. May I be a source of healing to others.” Say this once or twice a day especially if you’re having a hard time with self-criticism. It works!

More resources on self-compassion:

Chopra Meditation Challenge

Self-Compassion Always (video from Dr. Sanford’s YouTube Channel)

Overthinking

Today is one of those days when I can’t seem to stop overthinking about the things that are bothering me. Even though it’s a beautiful day outside and the sun is shining, I’m in a rut. It started this morning when I found out I couldn’t reschedule a trip I had planned. This made me start thinking about the other things in my life that aren’t the way I’d like them to be. From there, I started obsessing about my future and where life is going for me. It went from bad to worse.

Since I’ve been practicing mindfulness for the last 10 years, I knew my overthinking was getting out of hand. Still, I couldn’t seem to turn it off. So, I did what I tell my clients and students to do. I took a walk and paid attention to the breeze, the sun and the trees, and the actual moment I was experiencing, instead of what’s going to happen 3 months from now. Overthinking is a thief who can steal our joy if we let it. Today, I thought I’d share with you 3 tips to ease your mind and help you stop overthinking. 

Tip #1: It takes time to change our mental habits—be patient with yourself. Like many of my students and myself, our overthinking is so automatic that we have to practice interrupting these patterns. Be prepared to start small. For example, when overthinking is getting the best of you, stop and try to redirect your attention to something neutral or pleasant. Repeat your ABC’s or count backwards from 100. Anything that changes your focus will help you get unstuck.

Tip #2: Learn to direct your attention intentionally. Focus on your breath, your body, or your sensory experience in the present moment. The goal is to get out of your head and back into your life. Our thoughts become convincing because we repeat them over and over until we’re certain that this is how things are going to go. However, we can’t know what is going to happen until it does. Instead of living in the wreckage of the future, savor today.

Tip #3: Thoughts are NOT facts. No matter how much we overthink something and become convinced that it’s true, these thoughts are often not accurate. In fact, they’re usually not true. Instead, I tell my students and clients to base what they think on what actually happens to them. Research indicates that we spend 80% of our time worrying about the future and 20% of our time regretting the past. We need to learn to spend more time in the present moment, so we can stress less and live better.

Visit drdianesanford.com for more tips on how to control overthinking.

Here’s a funny (and relatable) video from Juggling The Jenkins on overthinking.

How to Stress Less and Live Better in 2020

While the holidays may be a wonderful time of year for some, they often come with the gift of added stress. To help you recuperate, whether your holidays were full of joy or drama, here are some tips from my program on how to stress less and live better. I hope that these ideas will help your New Year get off to a good start.

Instead of pressuring yourself to set New Year’s resolutions, take small steps toward improving your life and health. Too often, we give ourselves ridiculous and unrealistic goals to pursue, without having an idea of how to get there. So, we’re going to start small and suggest manageable steps to help you reach your goals. 

Step 1: Practice self-care. Make yourself a priority by taking 15 minutes twice a week to do something that relaxes you or brings you joy. Some of my favorite self-care practices are taking a walk through the neighborhood, eating my favorite food (which is chocolate), and listening to music. These are some ideas to get you started, but it’s best to find what works for you. One of my clients recently discovered that the mindless TV he watched was not relaxing, but watching something that interested him helped to calm his mind.

Step 2: Go slow. Don’t expect sudden changes. Instead, take one step at a time and don’t multitask. Research shows that multitasking is not an efficient way of getting things done. In fact, what happens is that our attention is divided and we frequently become overwhelmed. Some of the ways I like to do this are to take 3 deep breaths when I’m stopped at a stoplight, to walk slowly around my back yard, or sitting outside in the morning having a cup of tea. When you physically start to slow down, your mind will follow.

Step 3: Keep it simple. You don’t have to add anything extra to your life to ease stress and quiet your mind. Start with the things you’re already doing, but learn to focus your attention differently. For example, instead of focusing your attention on your to-do list while you take a shower, think about the scent of the soap and the sound of the water. Studies indicate that when we direct our attention to our sensory experience, it allows us to savor the moment and feel better because we’re not focusing on something unpleasant and worrisome.

Stay tuned for more ways to Stress Less and Live Better in 2020!

Here are some additional resources you can look at in the meantime:

Stress Less, Live Better

Stress Less, Live Better: For Pregnancy, Postpartum and Early Motherhood

Podcast: Intro to Mindfulness

Holiday Tips for Self-Care

The holidays often suck us into the gimmes, just like our kids, as we make the holidays happen. We easily lose track of the underlying message of the season for our kids. Consider these focused activities to reconnect with the holiday lessons:

1) CHOOSE actively, in line with your values. Stop and consider what you want to teach about the holiday season. You might want to say no if an event is too commercial, or detracts from planned family time. It’s fine to focus on fun–and opt out if an event is more drudgery or duty than pleasure. This is your holiday, too, and you have the right to celebrate it in a way that is meaningful and enjoyable for you. What a good example for your children!

2) INVOLVE everyone in the process of giving, helping small children pick out toys for the holiday toy drive, donate from their piggy banks to the bell ringer at the grocery, or make macaroni necklaces for favorite aunts or sitters. Older children might perform a chore, or sing/perform on an instrument for neighbors, visiting family, or residents of a senior living community.

3) READ one book about your spiritual perspective and traditions nightly. Every library has a children’s librarian eager to suggest new (or old favorite) titles. On the subject of reading, consider a classic book as a gift each year. Building a personal library for a child fosters a lifelong love of reading, one value to focus on that continues throughout the year.

If you’re looking for more ways to stay relaxed throughout the holidays, checkout my Stress Less, Live Better series. These books would make a great gift for the busy mom in your life, or anyone who could benefit from learning how to better manage stress.

Stress Less, Live Better
https://www.amazon.com/dp/1946665088

Stress Less, Live Better (Pregnancy, Postpartum and Early Motherhood Edition)
https://www.amazon.com/dp/1946665401

Happy Thanksgiving!

With the holiday season back in full swing this week, it’s important that we take time to focus on what matters most. Wishing you Happy Holidays and a Thanksgiving filled with love and relaxation. #wellnessWednesday

If you’re looking for more ways to stay relaxed throughout the holidays, checkout my Stress Less, Live Better series. These books would make a great gift for the busy mom in your life, or anyone who could benefit from learning how to better manage stress.

Stress Less, Live Better
https://www.amazon.com/dp/1946665088

Stress Less, Live Better (Pregnancy, Postpartum and Early Motherhood Edition)
https://www.amazon.com/dp/1946665401

Order directly from my publisher for 30% off of Stress Less, Live Better (Pregnancy, Postpartum and Early Motherhood Edition) with code Blackfriday2019
http://stores.praeclaruspress.com/unnamed-product/

70269934_2581446971962158_8570062426861469696_n