Girls Can Be So Mean

Lately Susie has been complaining of not feeling well and wanting to stay home from school. Susie’s mom, Cheryl, takes her to the doctor who is unable to find any medical reason for feeling ill. Time goes on, Susie starts asking to come home early from school. When she’s at home, Susie stays in her room or looks through social media while bumming out on the couch. She stays home on the weekends and when asked if she wants to call some friends, she replies ‘No. I don’t feel like going out’. Susie starts being short with her parents and often breaks into tears for no apparent reason. After many times of asking what’s wrong, Susie finally shares ‘Girls are so mean’ and begins to open up.

Three months ago, Susie’s best friend, Jill, stopped talking to her. Jill began pulling other friends away from Susie and would whisper in their ears while giggling and looking at Susie. In the hallways, Jill would make sure to block Susie from standing in the friend circle. Eventually, almost all of Susie’s friends were ignoring her and no longer sitting next to her in classes or during lunch. When Susie tried to confront them, she only heard, ‘What are you talking about? Nothing’s wrong, nobody’s mad at you’, accompanied with an eye roll and a turn of the shoulder. Susie has just become a victim of relational aggression, or girl bullying.

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Relational aggression tends to have three components: (1) it’s focused on damaging an individual’s social connections; (2) there is an intent to harm; (3) there is an imbalance of power. For girls, social connections are their world. Their behavior is oriented to be included in and form alliances with their peers. Damaging a girl’s social connections can lead to intense feelings of loneliness, worthlessness, and confusion. Too often, relational aggression occurs without any intervention. It can be difficult for school staff to notice the subtleties of what is happening, let alone having policies for how to handle such situations. Parents often feel a sense of helplessness on how to help their child battle through these situations. Luckily, there are things a parent can do!

1. Try to talk and listen to your child daily. Some research out there is indicating parents only talk with their children an average of 7 minutes a day! It’s important to find time to genuinely ask your daughter how her day was and how she is doing. Some days there will be short answers, other days there will be a lengthy discussion. Either way, sit and listen.

2. Affirm and validate. When your daughter opens up, she is taking a risk by putting herself out there. Her social network has been quite judgemental and she is probably fearing you may judge her too. Try to reflect how difficult this must be for her and that you will figure things out together. She needs to feel support from you. Try to remain calm as she shares, even though you may be feeling some anger towards those that are emotionally hurting your daughter. Staying calm and collected will help your daughter feel safe to open up more.

3. Share your own experiences from when you were younger. The purpose of this is to share you have been through something similar and that you can relate.

4. Don’t make fun of her. I know this one sounds obvious, but sometimes we need a reminder not to minimize what’s happening for her. Eye rolling, chuckling under your breath, and poking fun will close your daughter up and make it way harder for her to trust you to support her. Try substituting supportive questions.

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5. Be a good example. This is one of the most important things a parent can do. Try to model effective and positive communication whenever possible. Getting angry at waiters, other drivers, or being in a huff in the grocery line will encourage bullying behaviors in your child. Your children are watching you to learn how to interact with the world. Modelling how to handle different situations, even if this is at home with your spouse, is extremely important.

6. Help her navigate when she’s ready. Wait for your daughter to ask you what she should do before giving advice. When that time comes, try and help her decide for herself. Together walk through ‘SODAS’ with her. S – situation, help her identify and clarify what is going on. O – options, help brainstorm different ways she could handle the situation. All suggestions are fair game here and aren’t to be judged. D – disadvantages, A – advantages, help your daughter think through the disadvantages and advantages of each option. S – solution, encourage your daughter to follow through with a decision she feels is best.

My Teen is Cutting

Liz and Dan recently received a call from the school counsellor informing them their 14 year old daughter, Becky, has been cutting herself. Liz and Dan were in disbelief and confusion. Becky has always been an outstanding child who is friendly, outgoing, does well in school, is in cheer competitively and helps out around the house. When meeting with Becky, the therapist discovers she has been feeling extremely overwhelmed by pressures to be perfect and successful. Becky started self-harming last year and finds it helpful in calming her anxiety. Finding out your loved one is self-harming is often a surprising time for a parents that generates a mixture of emotions including anxiety, fear, hurt, anger, and much more.

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association (2010), self-harm occurs in 1-4% of the general population and in 14-39% of the adolescent population. According to the DSM V (2013) a person would meet criteria for non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) if within the past year, on 5 or more days, s/he engaged in intentional self-inflicted damage to the surface of the body without a suicidal intention. Examples of self-injury are cutting, burning, hitting, stabbing, or excessive rubbing. Moreover, the individual is engaging in the behavior to meet one, or more, of three expectations: to induce a positive feeling state, to resolve an interpersonal difficulty, or to obtain relief from a negative feeling or cognitive state (APA, 2013). The self-injury must also be associated with one of three things: a period of preoccupation with the intended behavior that is difficult to control, thinking about self-injury that occurs frequently, or interpersonal difficulties or negative feelings or thoughts occurring in the period immediately prior to the self-injurious act (APA, 2013).

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Self-injury can be a difficult thing to discover. Some warning signs that an individual may be self-harming include: having unexplainable cuts, burns or bruises, having unexplainable scars, stating s/he is accident prone, or covering his/her body regardless of the temperature (Canadian Mental Health Association, 2010). Some risk factors for self-injury include: adverse life events such as victimization or trauma, stressful life events, depression, anxiety, substance use, and a family history of self-harm. Levenkron (2006) describes those who self-harm as lonely and fearful individuals who have a perceived, whether real or imagined, concern of disappointing another. Often these clients report overwhelming emotion with few emotional regulation skills. A teen may appear to have her life together on the outside while experiencing an emotional storm on the inside. Levenkron (2006) also mentions the connection of self-harm to trauma and indicating the traumatic events may be subtle such as a parent with a mental or physical illness or having a divorced family to more unsubtle forms of trauma such as incest or abuse.

Parents are often at a loss on what they can do to help their teen. Three things parents can do to help their teen include:

1.    Educating yourself. There are many myths about self-harm that could taint your perception and make matters worse. Reading resources such as Helping Teens Who Cut: Understanding and Ending Self-Injury by Michael Hollander, accessing information through the Canadian Mental Health Association website (www.cmha.bc.ca), or talking to a professional such as a your family doctor or therapist.

2.    Practicing your own self-care: without self-care, parents of self-harming teens are at risk for burnout. Burnout can effect your relationship with your children, spouse, your work, and your ability to effectively support your teen. Emphasizing basic self-needs such as balanced sleep, healthy eating, regular exercise, and avoiding excessive use of alcohol, drugs, or caffeine.

3.    Validating your teen’s experience: approaching your teen with judgment about his or her actions and experience can generate greater family polarization, ultimately pushing your teen away from you. Being open, accepting, and curious about your teen’s experience will result in a stronger bond and foster collaboration. Some examples of validation include avoiding personal references, practicing attentive and active listening, and avoiding the word ‘but’.

At the end of the day, your teen is probably experiencing the same fear, confusion, and intense emotion that you are. Being kind, collaborative, and open will be more beneficial than being angry, passive, and accusatory.

~Brooke Lewis, MA, RCC~

References
Canadian Mental Health Association. (2010). Self harm. Retrieved from http://www.cmha.bc.ca/get-informed/mental-health-information/self-harm
DSM-V handbook of differential diagnosis. (2013). Arlington, VA. American Psychiatric Publishing, Inc.
Levenkron, S. (2006). Cutting: understanding and overcoming self-mutilation. New York: NY. Norton and Company.

How Many Sheep Can You Count? Secrets to Replenishing Sleep

The Question: ‘How are you?’. The Answer: ‘Tired’. The Problem: All too common. Whether it’s walking through a crowd or sitting in a coffee shop, I hear too many conversations starting just that way. People are sleep deprived! Makes me wonder if Mr. Sandman is on vacation…so how does one start to improve sleep?
Tip 1: Avoid caffeine 4-6 hours before bedtime
Caffeine is a tricky thing. Some associate caffeine only with coffee or energy drinks. It’s also in soda, tea, and chocolate. When we suggest ‘no caffeine for 4-6 hours’ it means all of the above items. Now for why…the effects of caffeine (the alertness) peaks 2 hours after consumption and then starts declining after that. To be safe, stay clear of caffeine well before bed. Perhaps try substituting your post-dinner java with an herbal tea or warm milk.
Tip 2: Avoid alcohol at least 2 hours before bedtime
I know some of you are thinking ‘But that glass of wine helps me fall asleep’. It may help you get to sleep, once you are there it tampers with your quality of sleep. During sleep we go through different sleep phases. Alcohol disrupts the phase process and keeps us out of the area that would leave us waking up feeling replenished and alert. No wonder people are sleepy after a night of partying!
Tip 3: Avoid smoking at least 2 hours before bedtime
Believe it or not, nicotine (the active ingredient in cigarettes) is a stimulant. This means nicotine activates your system and prevents you from feeling tired. As a substitute, try practicing some breathing exercises or stepping outside for some fresh air.

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Tip 4: Keep exercise more than 2 hours before bedtime
Working out and exercising gets the blood pulsing through your body. Engaging in these activities within 2 hours of bedtime may not give enough time for the body to cool down before lights out. If you can, keep exercise earlier in the day.
Tip 5: Follow the same routine
We are creatures of habit. If we do the same routine enough times, our body will pick up signals and follow along. A night time routine may look like the following: 2 hours before bed stop any highly mentally engaging activity such as studying or working, turn lights down so everything is dim, have a light snack if hungry, prep things for the next day (such as lunch, outfit, to-do list, etc.). 1 hour before bed wash face and brush teeth (random fact: brushing teeth can increase energy levels by 30%!), put on some PJ’s, settle in for a light hearted book or show. Other things to keep note of includes keeping your room cool and dark. Try to hit the feathers around the same time every night and get up around the same time every morning. Doing so will help re-set our body clock. Keep in mind, these things take time. Repetition is key when trying to form new habits and routines.
Tip 6: Avoid taking naps
Napping is dangerous when you have night time sleeping problems. Of course you are going to be tired during the day if you have had a poor night’s sleep. Fight through! By bedtime you will be super sleepy and on a fast track to Slumberland.
Tip 7: Avoid being hungry or eating heavily before going to bed
Creature comforts. If we are not comfortable, or our physical needs are not being met, it becomes very difficult to do anything else until they are met. If we are hungry, our tummies will send signals to our brains yelling ‘pay attention to me! Pay attention to me!’. On the flip side, if we eat a large amount, our brain is pre-occupied with over-seeing digestion and ignores sleeping signals. If you are hungry, have a light snack. Save the full-meal-deal for breakfast.
Tip 8: Get up if you do not fall asleep within half an hour
No point in lying there wishing you were sleeping and counting down the minutes until you need to be up. Get up and get out of the bed. Go into a separate room and do something relaxing with dim light. Perhaps this means flipping through a magazine or a paper. Try to stay clear of highly engaging activities such as social networking, video games, studying, work tasks, etc. Once you feel your head bobbing and your eyes long blinking, get back in bed.
Tip 9: Make your bed comfortable and only use for sleeping
Back to the creatures of habit statement, we will pair activities and behaviors with environments. If we use our beds for work, studying, games, social networking, etc. our brains will be ready for that when we are in that environment. If we only use beds for sleeping, our brain will know it’s time for sleep and we will fall asleep faster.
Tip 10: Keep worries out of bed
Feeling stressed about tomorrow’s tasks? A conversation that went sour earlier? Is Negative Nancy bombarding you while you are lying in bed? Time to sit up, potentially get out of bed, and write down everything you are thinking about. Your brain will know it’s somewhere safe and you will not have to worry about it. Keep a note book bedside so when Nancy visits, you are ready.
There you are folks! 10 tips to help you get better sleep. Sleep Tight.

~Brooke Lewis, MA, RCC~

Technology Divides

*Re-blogged from http://www.denisboyd.com/2014/11/technology-divides/

We gathered our children and grandchildren and headed to the west coast of Vancouver Island for a short family vacation. As in the past, we were anticipating the opportunity to enjoy each other’s company and remove ourselves from the demands of everyday life. We knew that there would be laughter, great food and long walks on the beach.

On this particular trip, we brought along two versions of a board game called “Trains,” which all of us knew and enjoyed playing. With the two versions, eight of us could play simultaneously. Throughout the game, there were jokes exchanged as our competitive natures kicked in….all in good fun.

It didn’t take long for someone to discover a phone app for the game so several of us downloaded it. At one point four of us were playing the game online. We were sitting alone in various parts of the house and interacting with each other online. There was no conversation or laughter or personal contact at all apart from the odd isolated groan when one of us deked out another in the game.

The online version of Trains separated us from each other although technically we were playing together. There was no laughter or kidding around or random conversation. The house was silent.

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One of us who was not playing noticed the paradox of being disconnected while being connected and commented on what she saw and didn’t hear. We logged off and headed back to the table to resume the board versions of the game and the lively and enjoyable interactions.

Recent research on families has indicated that young people are becoming depressed and anxious at rates far greater than in the past. The researchers noted that when children do not bond well or connect on a regular basis with their primary family, they choose secondary connections, which are usually with equally immature and impressionable peers.

Many of the teenagers and young adults who were found to be suffering from various mental health issues had been isolated from their family. They were materially well cared for but their emotional needs had been neglected through disconnection and isolation from caregivers.

Parents today are more distracted than they have ever been as there is the constant temptation to check texts or emails or tweets. Media preoccupation takes the parent away from his/her children. One mother looked forward to nursing her baby girl so that she could catch up on her media content: however, she was missing out on some precious and irreplaceable closeness with her child.

On another holiday we found a delightful restaurant to dine in. A few tables away sat a family of four; the mother had her tablet in front of her for most of the meal. The other three members of the family sat mainly in silence except when the mother was able to tear herself briefly away from her distraction.

Technology is amazing on many levels but it can also be a grave cause of concern for family well-being and emotional health because of its potential to distract and divide. It is interesting how a technology connection can so easily lead to disconnection with the people next to us. When those who are being disconnected are our own loved ones, we are unintentionally demeaning and neglecting the very people we should be honouring with our undivided attention.

~ Denis Boyd, MA, R.Psych~

Control Your Self-Talk

If I were to follow you around all day long and tell you ‘you’re dumb’, ‘you’re ugly’, ‘you’re a failure’, what would you do? Chances are you are not going to turn around and give me a hug. It is more likely you are going to turn around and confront me because it is not ok to speak to others that way. The odd thing is, when we get overwhelmed with life’s tasks, we tend to say these same things to ourselves. These phrases are often referred to as self talk or inner dialogue. Self talk includes all the things we say to ourselves throughout the day starting with the time we wake up with ‘I’m hungry’ or ‘5 more minutes’ and continuing through all the ups and downs we encounter until bed time. Depending on how we choose to frame our self talk our mood will either be uplifting or nasty. The important word to note is ‘choose’. It is in our power to shift our thinking, our self talk, from negative to positive. How we focus our thoughts will also determine our expectations for how our day is going to be, how we see the world, and how we think others see us. Over an extended period of time, our negative self talk can lead to depressive or anxious feelings and behaviors and lower our feelings of self worth and self esteem.

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To beat our negative self talk, we need to re-train our thinking habits to be more encouraging. First and foremost we need to accept uncertainty and remind ourselves we do not need to be perfect. The world is ever changing and there are often hiccups in our plans. Even when things do not seem to be going the way we expected, it is important to remind ourselves it is okay and we can get through it.

It is also helpful to start questioning our negative self talk and begin looking for evidence against it. For example, if we are thinking ‘I’m such an idiot’, we would search for reasons why it is untrue; such as ‘I can do many things well’, ‘I’m still learning this skill’, or ‘I am knowledgeable in other areas’. After we find evidence against the negative, we can ask ourselves if there is a more positive, realistic way of looking at the situation. Back to our example, perhaps we realize this is a great opportunity to learn something new or that we were just having an off day. Lastly, we need to ask ourselves if the negative thought is helpful. If the thought is draining us emotionally and causing a major block in moving forward, perhaps it’s time to battle it in order to move forward.

In addition to battling the negative thoughts directly, we can try to control some of our environment to minimize the chance of negative input seeping in. For example, if we are around people who speak negatively about themselves and others, or are entertained by media that is negative in nature, we are more likely to experience negative thoughts. Eliminating or minimizing exposure to such input and replacing it with more positive input can help. By doing so, we can begin to change our thinking habits. We can also begin giving ourselves positive affirmations and creating lists of things we are grateful for daily. Doing so will force us to see our strengths and appreciate those things that are going well in our lives.

If people who are close to us started saying negative things towards themselves, we would try our best to encourage and support them. We would remind them of how wonderful they are, how much they are loved, and how strong they are. We would tell them they are doing the best they can, considering the situation they are in. Now it’s time to start telling ourselves the same things and taking control over our thoughts. With time and consistency we can change our habits, accept our imperfections, and give ourselves a positive outlook.

~Brooke Lewis, MA, RCC~

Change Your Environment to Change Your Outlook

The color of the walls, the pictures on our desk, our screensaver, the music playing in the background, and even the clothes we are wearing contribute to the ‘atmosphere’ of our environment.  So what would happen if we took control over all of it?  Could it change our mood?

I am believer that it would.  Now keep in mind, I do not have any research on hand to state whether or not it actually does.  It is only from personal experience that I would vote yes.  For years I recall taking control over my surroundings to fuel my energy and drive.  As a child my room had bright accents (yes..even a pink canopy bed with matching curtains).  Into the teen years, my closet doors were covered with inspirational quotes that I pulled from books and wrote out in colorful markers.  My agenda was essentially a happiness scrapbook with each page covered in bright paper, photos, quotes, notes from friends, and messages of encouragement.  Once hitting the post secondary level, there was less time to scrapbook my agenda, so I turned to my socks! From the ages of probably 18 to 22, if you opened my sock drawer you would find either brightly colored toe socks (the ones where each toe is a different color), or gym socks…no normal socks for me!  Oddly enough, regardless of how icky a day, looking down and seeing rainbow colors stick out under my jeans during a lecture or exam at SFU always made me smile.

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Now I sit at multiple desks throughout the week and still have ways to ensure I am absorbing positive messages.  My water bottle sits proudly on my desk and reads ‘Love Your Life’, I have wall quotes plastered everywhere, I stare at dream boards, I bring symbols that anchor me to my family values, and read daily encouraging remarks from daily readers and mentors in my life.  Below are a couple more suggestions to control your environment:

1.  De-clutter – clutter not only clutters your desk, it can clutter your mind.  Having things organized helps increase visual energy onto things that lift your spirit and let you breathe

2.  Encouragement/affirmation cards – have some personal statements giving yourself a pat on the back handy in a drawer or in a note book.  When we are at work or school and need a pick-me-up, the card is there! (I like mine written on overly bright cardstock)

3.  Watch what you read – reading gossip or people complain about their day may taint your mood.  If you are having an off day, try to read only stories of success or share in other people’s wins.  Steer clear of those ‘Negative Nancy’s’ in your life

4.  Really listen to the words of your music – turning the angry/sad/poor me music off and re-connect with some good ol’ toe tappin tunes. You might be surprised how much this one can change your day.  My favorite is Christmas Music…no joke…any time of year or time of day.  It was especially helpful during ‘paper season’ in post secondary

5. What is on your walls?? – take a good look…are you inspired by what you see? On my walls you will find: positive quotes, pictures of my family dating back to the 40’s, dream boards, my favorite vintage car, sunsets, and marine-inspired art.

~Brooke Lewis, MA, RCC~

Orthorexia Nervosa: When Healthy Becomes Unhealthy

Sally scrolls through her social media and an article catches her eye. She clicks on the link and begins to read about how processed foods can be harmful to health. She resonates with the article and slowly stops eating processed foods such as cereals and canned soups. Sally becomes more curious and starts researching more about food, its production, and the impact on our health. She begins to cut out other food categories believing they are bad for her, such as dairy and wheat and insists on eating organic only. As Sally’s food rules become stricter, her social life begins to dwindle. She starts declining social functions as they mostly involve food that would not follow her rules. Her way of eating becomes more rigid and when she does have a treat, she experiences strong feelings of guilt. Sally’s belief system also begins to change. Sally starts to develop a sense of superiority as she becomes a strictly ‘clean’ eater. Overtime, Sally begins to experience medical concerns and consults her physician whom suggests she is struggling with Orthorexia Nervosa (ON).

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Can healthy eating become unhealthy? Doctor Steven Bratman thinks so. Orthorexia nervosa is a term coined by Doctor Bratman in 1997 in an article he wrote for Yoga Journal detailing his experience of his own obsession with healthy eating that developed while working in a commune. Bratman also commented about other restrictive eating habits of visitors to the commune, all of which had the goal of eating for purity. According to Bratman (1997), ON is characterized by the obsession for the quality of one’s food rather than the quantity of food, as seen in anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Rather than having the goal to lose weight, the goal of an orthorexic individual is to eat healthy. As healthy as possible.

An individual with ON will pursue this obsession through a restrictive diet, a concentrated focus on meal preparation, and specific patterns of eating. This individual will spend much time scrutinizing the food to be consumed, questioning about pesticides and hormones, questioning the processing of the food and whether nutrients were lost during cooking, and inquiring about the packaging to assess if labels are providing enough information regarding the product. Beyond meal time, this individual may spend considerable amounts of time researching food, weighing and measuring food and meal planning for the future. Typically, ON develops out of a desire to maximize one’s own health and well-being (Koven & Abry, 2015).

Medical problems start to occur when eating rituals and rules become too rigid and strict. Medical consequences of ON include nutritional deficiencies as individuals omit entire food groups, such as grains or dairy. Psychological consequences are seen in intense anxiety and frustration when food-related rituals are disrupted, disgust when food purity is compromised, and intense guilt when food violations in the form of stricter food rules or purification rituals such as fasts or cleanses (Koven & Abry, 2015).

Orthorexia nervosa seems to be quite the hot topic in the media. Daily Mail, Global News, The Times, Huffington Post, The Wall Street Journal and CNN are just a few sources that have released a news story or article regarding ON. In Dr. Bratman’s book (2000) he states there is an orthorexia nervosa epidemic occurring in North America. Interestingly, there was very little research to back up this statement. Orthorexia Nervosa, currently, is not an official diagnosis in the DSM-V. Controversy exists whether Orthorexia Nervosa could be its own eating disorder or whether it is a subtype of another eating disorder. Even with a lack of definition, people are coming forth confessing their battle with ON through fitness blogs. I am curious about whether part of the development of Orthorexia Nervosa is correlated to the shift in media beauty standards from this to fit. Fitspo is a common hashtag used in social media to indicate fitness-inspiration. Often these posts include bodies of unrealistically low body fat with convoluted messages that are meant to be inspiring, along with dietary education that demonizes certain foods or ways of eating.

Further research is being conducted on ON to help provide effective treatment suggestions. Therapy can help those who believe they are struggling with ON by helping them reduce fear that is related to “unhealthy” foods, to re-introduce a larger variety of foods, and re-engage in social situations that may involve food.

~Brooke Lewis, MA, RCC~

References:

Bratman, S. (1997).  Original essay on orthorexia.  Available at: www.orthorexia.com.  Accessed: February 2015.

Bratman, S. & Knight, D.  (2000).  Health Food Junkies: Orthorexia Nervosa – Overcoming the Obsession with Healthful Eating.  New York, NY: Broadway.

Koven, N. S. & Abry, A. W. (2015).  The clinical basis of orthorexia nervosa: emerging perspectives.  Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, 1(1), 385-394.  Doi: 10.2147/NDT.561665

Benefits of a Mindful Brain

Has anybody ever told you to stop and smell the roses? And have you? If you have, you may have noticed some changes in the moment. Your heart rate lowers, you breathe deeper, you are able to smell the sweetness radiating from the flower. Your vision is absorbed in the vibrant colors.  You may even reach out and touch the silky smooth petal.  In this moment, your mind stops.  Your to-do list seems to slip away and your worries leave with it. In this moment, you are mindful.  You are present in the here-and-now by paying attention to the experience of the moment with acceptance and without judgement.

Mindfulness has been around for thousands of years and practiced by people across the planet. It wasn’t until recently, well within the past 20 years or so, that we have been able to develop research techniques to study mindfulness. Through neuroscience research we are now able to say that through the intentional focus of attention, we can actually change the structures in our brains. And with those changes comes great benefits such as emotional regulation, job satisfaction, reducing anxiety and depression, increasing resiliency, and even assisting couples build a secure relationship.

The practice of mindfulness is the training of the brain to focus awareness and strengthen conscious awareness. By becoming mindfully aware, we are able to step back and see our situation in a larger perspective, from a larger field of awareness. We can then begin to see different possibilities for responding to our situation rather than falling into old reactive patterns.

One of the most practiced mindfulness techniques is breathing. It may sound simple, but it can be very challenging. Find a spot to sit and let yourself relax. Try to focus on your breathing deeply in and out. If it helps, place your hand on your belly to feel your breathing. Your mind may wander, and that’s ok. Just notice the wandering and return your attention to your breathing. Try to focus on your breathing for 1 minute. There are many other mindfulness practices you can do on your own with a self-help CD or you can attend a mindfulness practice group.

12670151_10156473259525137_2976056290011950520_nWhen you slow down to smell the roses, you may learn a thing or two about yourself. I attended a conference on mindfulness where hundreds of helping professionals participated in mindfulness practices. One such practice involved eating a raisin mindfully. We looked at the raisin, felt it in our fingers, smelled it, put it in our mouth and rolled it around, and slowly chewed it. It was the longest raisin eating experience I have ever had. At the end of the practice, our facilitator asked for feedback from the group on what we noticed. One fellow raised his hand and said, “I’ve been eating raisins my whole life and I just realized I don’t like raisins!”.  Sometimes in life we spend our days rushing; mindfulness helps us stop and just be.

~Brooke Lewis, MA, RCC~