Watching Thoughts and Letting Them Go

cloudsIn a recent post we looked at how mindfulness can help us let go of our thoughts when we get caught up in ruminating or worrying or just thinking in circles. Letting go of thoughts is never easy, however, and in this post we’ll look at how simply watching our thoughts can help us let them go.

Thoughts pop into our heads all the time, and usually we don’t pay any special attention to them: they enter and leave our minds all on their own, just like a car that drives into our line of sight, remains in our field of vision for a few moments, and then drives along and passes out of our line of sight again.

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Letting Go of Thoughts Mindfully

racing thoughtsIt’s easy to get swept away by our thoughts, especially in the face of strong emotions. We get stuck ruminating and dwelling about the past, filled with guilt or regret. Or our minds start racing and we can’t stop worrying about the future and imagining all the things that could go wrong. Or we replay conversations over and over again in our heads, trying to make sense of them or figure out what we could have said differently.

When our minds get going like this, not only is it exhausting; these patterns of thinking tend to make us feel bad, intensifying the emotions we’re already feeling and generating additional negative emotions as well. Because this experience is so unpleasant, it’s natural to want to these thoughts to stop, and to be able to prevent yourself from even having them in the first place. We often wind up trying to make these thoughts go away, and shut them out completely and make sure they don’t come back. But just like we can’t control our emotions or suppress our emotions, neither can we control or suppress our thoughts.

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Seven Tips to Help Your Relationship Prosper

In a previous post we looked at some signs that suggest your relationship or marriage is in trouble according to relationship expert John Gottman. Gottman also describes seven principles that can help you get your relationship or marriage back on track.

1. Enhancing Your Love Maps: Love Maps are the part of your brain where you keep information about your partner’s life. The more familiar you and your partner are with each other’s world, the more detailed your love maps. You know each other’s histories, day-to-day life, friends, values, interests, dreams, etc. You know how things are going in in their life, at work, whether they’re having a bad day or week, what’s been on their mind, anything that’s troubling or worrying them, and important things that are coming up in their life. You also know the little details like their favourite foods, books, movies and tv shows. You keep track of what’s important in each other’s lives, and in so doing become closer and more intimate with each other.

2. Increasing Fondness and Admiration: When things are going rough in a relationship, you can sometimes lose track why you fell in love in the first place and forget the things about your partner or spouse that you value, admire and love. Instead of focusing on your partner’s flaws and the ways in which they annoy you, when you remind yourself of their good qualities, you keep the positive feelings alive in your relationship. According to Gottman:

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STOPP and Be Mindful

 
 

When you’re feeling overwhelmed by stress and anxiety or distressing emotions, it can be diificult to know how to manage these feelings.

Often we allow our stress and anxiety and emotions to build and build all day without doing anything to calm them, trying to just ignore them and hoping they’ll go away. Then, when we finally can’t take it anymore and start feeling overwhelmed and desperate, things have often accumulated too much and begun to spiral downwards and it can be so hard to get any relief.

The more we allow stress and distressing emotions to accumulate, the more difficult they become to address. That’s why one of the keys to managing our feelings is to find ways to not let them build up so much in the first place.

One effective way to accomplish this is with an exercise called STOPP. STOPP is designed to help you stop stress and anxiety in their tracks, as soon as you begin to notice them, rather than waiting until they become overwhelming. Read More



What Is Acceptance And Why Is It So Important?

mbsr acceptanceAcceptance can be a difficult notion to grasp. If you are suffering or in pain, the idea that you should practice acceptance can seem counterintuitive. So what do we mean by acceptance, and how is it beneficial?

In therapy, when we talk about acceptance, we are referring to acceptance of things such as:

  • external events outside our control
  • spontaneous emotions, thoughts and memories
  • uncertainty
  • pain or physical sensations

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Are You and Your Partner Emotionally Connected?

One of the things we value most from our relationships is feeling emotionally connected with another person. This connection helps us feel safe and secure not just in our relationships, but in our life in general.

However, when our emotional connection to our partner is not secure, or our partner is inaccessible or unresponsive, we start to feel alone and our relationships become threatened.

According to Sue Johnson, who developed Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), the basic issue in most relationship problems isn’t fighting or power struggles or lack of communication, but rather that couples have become emotionally disconnected. Johnson finds that marriages fail not due to increasing conflict, but due to decreasing affection and emotional responsiveness.

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How Not To Deal With Emotions

Emotions can be a great source of richness in our lives. However, when faced with overpowering negative emotions like sadness, guilt, fear and anger, our lives can seem overwhelming.

Most of us have never learned to deal with our emotions. Instead, as Sheri Van Dijk notes in The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook: Using DBT to Regain Control Of Your Emotions and Your Life:

Generally, if you’re experiencing an uncomfortable emotion, you don’t want it to stick around. That’s because it’s uncomfortable, of course. Ironically, this desire to get rid of unpleasant emotions can cause you to behave in ways that cause the emotion to stick around or even to become more intense.

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Guided Mindfulness Meditation MP3s and Breathing Exercises

Below you’ll find a number of guided MP3 files of mindfulness meditations and breathing exercises. You can play them from this page, or right-click on the download link and select “Save Link As …” to save them to your computer, phone or tablet.

Mindful Breathing Meditation: A mindful breathing meditation used in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). The entire meditation is 30-minutes in length, but a bell sounds at 10, 15, 20 and 25 minutes, so you can use this MP3 for meditations of different durations to suit your needs. [download]

 

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Abdonimal Breathing to Calm and Relax

When you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, one of the most effective ways to calm your body, mind and emotions is to pay attention to your breathing.

When you focus your attention on your breath, things start to slow down. Physiologically, your heart rate slows, your blood pressure drops, and any tightness or tension you feel tends to relax. Breathing mindfully also calms your emotions, making them more manageable, and helps slow down a racing mind.

In the next post, we’re going to learn a few techniques to help you follow your breath, but first, it’s important to ensure that you’re breathing in a way that helps calm you, rather than in a way that can increase your level of stress.

To learn about abdominal breathing, you can watch the following video or read the description below:

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