Abdominal 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.

 

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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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Bringing Mindfulness into your Daily Life

mindfulnessMindfulness isn’t just something we practice when meditating: anything we do throughout the day, we can learn to do mindfully. Once we learn to bring mindfulness into our everyday lives, we can reduce a lot of the stress, anxiety, depression and anger that tends to build up when we go through life relatively mindlessly.

It would be great if we could go about our whole day completely mindful, bringing our full attention to whatever we’re doing, while we’re doing it, and not getting carried away by distractions or thoughts of the past or about the future. But although mindfulness sounds simple, it does require effort. It takes a continual effort to notice when our mind’s started to wander and keep bringing it back to the present, and it’s not something most of us can do all day long.

So instead of striving go about the entire day mindfully, it’s good to start with some small steps, and find ways to gradually add more mindfulness into your activities throughout the day. Below are some ways you can start bringing mindfulness into your days on a regular basis.

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Three Minute Breathing Space

 

In a couple of recent posts, we looked at some things you can do to help stop stress and anxiety from becoming overwhelming, and to give yourself a breathing time out from stress, anxiety and depression. In this post, we look at the Three Minute Breathing Space, another great way to manage stress and anxiety, and to help your emotions from becoming overwhelming.

The Three Minute Breathing Space was developed as part of the Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy program for people with depression. Like the Breathing Time Out, it’s a way to bring your attention to the present, give yourself a break from whatever stress or emotions have been building up, and then return to the rest of your day, more refreshed and focused on the present.

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Take a Breathing Time Out

time outIn a recent post we looked at a couple of exercises you can use to help stop stress and anxiety from becoming overwhelming. Another technique you can use throughout the day to manage stress and anxiety, and to help keep strong emotions and feelings of depression and anger from becoming overwhelming, is to give yourself a Breathing Time Out.

Just as a time out can be an effective way to help children calm down when they are acting out and starting to get out of control, when our thoughts and emotions start getting carried away, a time out is a great tool to help calm ourselves.

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Acceptance in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

Acceptance and Commitment TherapyIn an earlier post, we introduced the concept of acceptance and talked about some of its benefits. Acceptance is one of the foundations of a mindfulness-based approach to treating anxiety and depression called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).

In the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy-based workbook, The Mindfulness and Acceptance Workbook for Depression, Kirk Strosah and Patricia Robinson explain some misconceptions people often have about acceptance. First, they define acceptance:

The word “acceptance” has a lot of different meanings, some of which we want to challenge. The type of acceptance we encourage you to practice is best thought of as a voluntary, intentional stance of nonjudgmental awareness of thoughts, feelings, memories, and sensations in the context of a triggering event.

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What are the Benefits of Mindfulness?

zen meditationThe benefits you can experience from learning to become more mindful are virtually limitless. Mindfulness allows you to relate to and deal directly with whatever is happening in your life. Instead of struggling to escape, suppress or avoid distressing thoughts and feelings, mindfulness helps you approach whatever is going on in your life, in your thoughts, and with your emotions, without becoming overwhelmed.

When you start being more mindful and start living in the present moment, you’ll experience your life more fully, and become more in touch with yourself, who you are, what is important to you, and what you want out of life.

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What Is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a simple concept. Basically, it involves paying attention to whatever is happening in the present moment. All of us are mindful at times; however, because our minds are used to not being in the present, but rather off daydreaming, planning for the future, or thinking about things that have already happened, we spend very little time actually in the present moment unless we make a conscious effort.

 

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Positive Psychology, Blessings and Three Good Things

A type of therapy called Positive Psychology, has been gaining popularity as research continues to demonstrate the effectiveness of positive psychology in helping people feel better and increase their well-being. Compared to many other approaches to therapy, positive psychology focuses less on identifying and fixing deficits, and more on recognizing and building on positives—looking at “What’s right with you?” instead of “What’s wrong with you?”

In his book Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being, Martin Seligman writes:

We think too much about what goes wrong and not enough about what goes right in our lives. Of course, sometimes it makes sense to analyze bad events so that we can learn from them and avoid them in the future. However, people tend to spend more time thinking about what is bad in life than is helpful. Worse, this focus on negative events sets us up for anxiety and depression. One way to keep this from happening is to get better at thinking about and savoring what went well.

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How to Reduce Stress at Work

stress work I was recently interviewed for an article in Inside Toronto about the stress caused by dealing with difficult people. Especially in the workplace, these difficult people and negative influences can create a great deal of stress.

I find that work stress is one of the most common reasons people come for counselling or therapy, and often the biggest source of stress is difficult bosses and co-workers.

In the article, I talk about a number of way to help reduce stress when faced with challenging interpersonal relationships and relieve the stress once it starts to build.

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