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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/

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Introducing My New Book!

SLLB PPE frontHello Followers!

I have some exciting news. I have a new book out!

In the latest book from my Stress Less Live Better series, you’ll learn how to best meet the challenges of pregnancy, postpartum, and early motherhood. With over 30 years expertise in motherhood and emotional health, I have developed 5 Simple Skills to reduce stress, anxiety, and parenting guilt by learning to calm your mind and body. Based on my Stress Less Live Better program developed for moms and busy people, these skill sets are practical and can easily fit into your daily life without needing extra time.

Complete with exercises and opportunities for reflection, this book will guide you on your journey to stress less and live better.

Purchase my book here:
Print: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1946665401
Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0813ZCBP4

Mindfulness Workshops

Saturday, January 26 @ 9:00 am – 12:00 pm
Saturday, February 2 @ 9:00am – 12:00pm

$30 – $50 ($30/class OR $50 for both)

REGISTER HERE!

Join us for two weekend workshops covering various aspects of mindfulness practice.

The perfect antidote to the hectic holiday season, unwind and set new intentions for 2019, through guided exercises and lessons.

Descriptions:

Mindfulness in Everyday Life: of discussion of the value and practice of mindfulness in everyday life. This workshop was offered in 2018 and quickly sold out, with rave reviews.

Women, Mindfulness, & Mood: Because as women our minds, hormones and lives are constantly changing, we need to learn a set of coping skills that will help us weather life’s storms. Mindfulness practice that teaches us to calm our mind and re-inhabit our body is a time-proven skillset for easing stress, anxiety and worry.

Tickets include light refreshments.

Check out the link below to learn more about Stress Less, Live Better:
Podcast: Intro to Mindfulness

Say Yes to Your Life

(video)

Hello Followers!

Welcome to day 8 of my Mindfulness Challenge! Please participate by leaving comments or reposting/sharing.

When you embrace life fully, you open yourself up to a world of possibilities.

  1. What do you do to embrace life fully?
  2. What can you do today to embrace life fully?

Today is the final day of the Mindfulness Challenge. I hope that you have learned some new ways to practice mindfulness, as well as how to stress less and live better.

Love Yourself

Hello Followers!

Welcome to day 7 of my Mindfulness Challenge! Please participate by leaving comments or reposting/sharing.

When you love and accept yourself, you treat yourself the way you deserve to be treated.

  1. What do you do to love and accept yourself?
  2. What can you do today to love and accept yourself?

Keep an eye out for day 8 of the challenge tomorrow!

Listen to Your Heart

Hello Followers!

Welcome to day 6 of my Mindfulness Challenge! Please participate by leaving comments or reposting/sharing.

When you learn not to get carried away with your thoughts and listen to your heart, you feel at ease.

  1. What do you do to settle your thoughts and listen to your heart?
  2. What can you do today to settle your thoughts and listen to your heart?

Keep an eye out for day 7 of the challenge tomorrow!

Savor The Moment

Hello Followers!

Welcome to day 5 of my Mindfulness Challenge! Please participate by leaving comments or reposting/sharing.

When you savor the moment you’re in, life seems sweeter.

  1. What do you do to savor the moment?
  2. What can you do today to savor the moment?

Keep an eye out for day 6 of the challenge tomorrow!

There’s Always Chocolate

Podcast: Introduction to Mindfulness

Hello Followers!

Welcome to day 4 of my Mindfulness Challenge! Please participate by leaving comments or reposting/sharing.

When you take time to do the things you enjoy, you feel better.

  1. What do you do to soothe yourself during times of stress?
  2. What can you do today to soothe yourself?

Keep an eye out for day 5 of the challenge tomorrow!

Just Breathe

Hello Followers!

Welcome to day 3 of my Mindfulness Challenge! Please participate by leaving comments or reposting/sharing.

When you focus on your breath, you can quiet your mind and calm your body.

  1. What deep breathing exercises do you use to relax?
  2. What breathing exercise will you use today to relax?

Keep an eye out for day 4 of the challenge tomorrow!

Press Your Reset Button

Hello Followers!

Welcome to day 2 of my Mindfulness Challenge! Please participate by leaving comments or reposting/sharing.

When you think before you react, daily stressors can seem less troublesome.

  1. What do you do to respond wisely rather than react blindly?
  2. What can you do today to think before you respond?

Keep an eye out for day 3 of the challenge tomorrow!

Take Care of Yourself

 

Hello Followers!

I am doing an 8 day Mindfulness Challenge. Please respond in the comments to participate! (Feel free to repost if you’d like)

When you take care of yourself, life can be wonderful.

  1. What do you do to take care of yourself?
  2. What can you do to take care of yourself today?

Tomorrow I will be posting another day of the challenge, so stay tuned!

More Spring Cleaning

Here are some additional thoughts on how to renew ourselves and release old, worn thoughts and habits. Spring cleaning from the inside out.

Discover what’s nourishing. Just as plants need water and sunshine to grow, we need physical, emotional, and spiritual sustenance. Start with eating healthy foods, getting regular physical activity, sleeping 8-9 hours, and taking breaks for your mind and body.  Do one thing you enjoy daily, whether it’s phoning a friend, listening to music or walking your dog. Nurture your spirit through prayer, meditation, or communing with nature.

Let go of un-nourishing relationships. Being honest about admitting and detaching from relationships which aren’t good anymore can still hurt especially ones involving family and long-term friends. If we’ve spoken to them about what needs to be different and things haven’t changed over time, release them with love. Clearing space for nourishing relationships to enter.

Cultivate optimism. Looking more on the “sunny” side of life can be learned by shifting attention away from negative thoughts to more positive ones. There are few situations which are all good or all bad.  Our great job may sour when we get a new boss.  An untimely move lead to a wonderful neighborhood with friends with love. Prune your mind of unnecessary negativity.

Practice gratitude.

Photo by Real Mom Kim

When we feel grateful, our souls are nourished and restored.  We have a more positive attitude toward today and what lies ahead. We feel connected to something bigger than ourselves.  Supported in the deepest sense. Abundant and alive.

 

Great article on “25 Gratitude Journal Prompts and Ideas” from Good Things Realized

Spring is in the Air: Time for Emotional Cleaning

Spring is in the air. As the days get longer and the weather warms, we feel a growing urge to refresh and renew our lives. The blossoming season brings with it the opportunity to release what we’ve held on to mentally or emotionally, which no longer fits. Spring cleaning indeed.

Clearing away old beliefs. Just like our physical space, our minds are often cluttered with wornout beliefs and ideas. In cognitive therapy, clients learn to monitor their negative beliefs and refute them. If someone grew up being criticized, they may have the belief “I’m no good”. As an adult however, they may have a successful career or be a caring parent, evidence that this belief is not true. Changing automatic assumptions is empowering and liberating.

Sow the seeds of intention: Step One. Along with releasing negative thoughts, we must clarify what we want. Why is this challenging? First, our minds  chatter constantly over urgent but not important matters. Like what we said that offended someone we hardly know or putting the laundry away. Instead, we need to quiet our “monkey mind” through prayer, meditation and relaxation.  Stillness allows connection with our deeper selves.

Sow the seeds of intention: Step Two. When our mind is still, we see more clearly how we want to live. Then during our daily meditation/prayer, we can set our intentions for serenity, peaceful relationships, health, etc., allowing our intention and energy to flow in the direction we desire. Creating the life we want one day at a time.

Great article on “Giving Your Emotional Life a Spring Cleaning” from Sharon Martin

Stress Getting the Best of You? Just Breathe.

Breathing-Medium-1080x675When first introduced to breathing as a relaxation technique, we wonder how something so simple can work.  My favorite story about “breathing” was finding my 10 year-old daughter playing the deep breathing/relaxation CD I’d made to a friend who was spending the night  and having trouble sleeping.  She said, “Just listen–you’ll feel better.”  Fifteen minutes later, they were both asleep.

Deep breathing works so well because we spend so much time physically  and emotionally stressed.  Psychologist Alice Domar states that the average US adult experiences the fight or flight response 50 times daily.  While adaptive for cave-dwelling ancestors running from saber-toothed tigers, the flood of stress chemicals through our bodies makes us edgy, irritable, and more vulnerable to physical and emotional health problems.  Likewise, it results in short, shallow breathing which fuels rather than diminishes the stress response.

The busier we are, the truer this is, especially for moms with small children who already feel physically and emotionally depleted.  The more rundown we are, the more likely the fight-flight response is to trigger.  Research has shown that five minutes of deep breathing several times a day leads to lower stress hormones by day’s end.  Why wait?  If we can delay bedtime to pick up the house, certainly we can take 5 minutes, 3 times a day, to improve our physical and emotional well-being.  Although it may feel strange at first to be still and breathe deeply, it feels good.

This week’s mantra: “I always have my breath to destress.”

Click here for my “Simply Breathe” YouTube exercise

Article from Well & Good on “4 Yoga Poses and Breathing Exercises that can help you get better ZZZ’s”

Meal Prep Mastery for Moms: Free Online Series

Hello. Dr. Diane here. Hope your week is off to a good start. I met this fabulous mom who loves food and feeding her family without it becoming overwhelming and stressful. When she asked me to introduce her new mealprepmasteryformoms.com and participate in her expert summit to kick off her series, of course, I said yes.

As moms, we pretty much run the household, right? From laundry to dishes to bandaging scraped elbows, we often feel like we’re all things to all people … which is why, when it comes to cooking, so many of us feel burned out, tired, and maybe even resentful. We want to feed our kids healthy meals, but by the time it’s time to cook dinner, the kitchen is the last place we want to be.

Good news: it doesn’t have to be this way. With the right tools, information, and advice, you can learn to love the kitchen (and cooking in it) again—while you make quick, healthy meals your family will actually eat without complaining!

My friend Nichole Teering, nutritionist, is offering a complimentary interview series starting February 12 to show you how. It’s called Meal Prep Mastery for Moms, and it brings together more than 20 experts in cooking and nutrition, including me, to give you our expert advice on feeding your family well—without hating the process.

Grab your spot here, at no cost: mealprepmasteryformoms.com for tips and helpful hints to regain your Health AND Your Sanity-while feeding your family well.

Dr-Diane-Sanford-infographic-new

Remember, that mindful eating and food prep is a great way to ease stress and redirect your attention. For Nichole’s interview with me about my new program Stress Less Live Better and how to make self-care and mindfulness part of your daily routine, click on the following link: https://mealprepmasteryformoms.com/drdianesanford. Namaste.

 

Quick Sale on my new book!

stress less live better
From now until February 14th you can get $5.00 off my new book, Stress Less Live Better: 5 Simple Steps to Ease Anxiety, Worry and Self-Criticism, with the code StressLess at checkout on the Praeclarus Press website! Don’t miss out!

Register Now for Mindfulness in Everyday Life Workshop!

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Spots are filling up quickly for Dr. Sanford’s Mindfulness in Everyday Life Workshop, so visit novel neighbor.com or call (314) 738-9384 to reserve your spot! Admission is $20 dollars and includes a copy of Dr. Sanford’s new book, Stress Less Live Better, a healthy snack and 90-minutes of mindfulness practice. Don’t miss out!

After Christmas Prescription: Rest and Restore + Upcoming Talk at Novel Neighbor

I was visiting with my cousin at my mother’s annual holiday party when he commented to me he was glad to have “endured” Christmas. I told him that once his children were older, like mine who are now 29 and 25, he would enjoy the holiday more. I recalled how I felt after decorating, shopping, wrapping, and celebrating with the girls in tow, and how my joy was tempered by exhaustion.

Our self-care tip this post-holiday week is to rest and recharge your battery.  Don’t put pressure on yourself for playdates, taking the children out or visiting friends and family unless that’s easier for you. Resist preparing  gourmet meals, downloading holiday pictures or catching up on errands. You have the entire  year ahead.

What to do instead? Rest. Restore. Recharge. No child has ever died from a diet of hot dogs and macaroni. In fact, many of them prefer it. They will gladly wear the same clothes and don’t care if their rooms are a mess. Also, let them entertain themselves.  What about the new toys they took seconds to unwrap? They can play with them!

For a healthy and happy new year, you need to have the energy to enjoy it. As Ann and I always say, you must keep your pitcher filled to take care of yourself and those you love.  Don’t run yourself ragged like little Spudgy and miss out on the fun. Give yourself a break this week. You deserve it. And get some sleep.

If you’re looking for another way to rest and recharge after the holidays, come to my Mindfulness in Everyday Life Workshop at The Novel Neighbor! Here’s more information:

workshop copy

Three Steps to Teachable Holiday Moments + New podcast

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.

Here’s a holiday gift to you! New podcast on Mindful Perinatal Coping

Perform Random Acts of Kindness This Week

Since Thanksgiving is next Thursday, this week I challenge you to perform random acts of kindness daily. Let family and friends know your gratitude for them. Smile at the grocery clerk or say “Hi” to a neighbor. These small gestures can turn your day and someone else’s around because they improve mood and diminish stress.

Did you know that when you are kind or someone is thoughtful towards you, it improves your and the receiver’s health and also has a positive influence on those observing.

Random acts of kindness include being grateful and appreciative of yourself, so treat yourself to a soothing bath or listening to some music you enjoy. As Helen Keller said, “What I am looking for is not out there-it is in here.”

For more ideas on how to practice random acts of kindness, check out my new book Stress Less Live Better at Praeclarus Press and follow me on twitter or Facebook for conversation and support in spreading an attitude of gratitude. Best to each of you!