Tag Archives: meditation

How to HEAL (With a Challenge)

Hardwiring Happiness


Hardwiring Happiness is a book about taking your everyday experiences and using them to build inner strengths. When you have certain characteristics like self-compassion and curiosity, you can call upon them during times of frustration and difficulty–but more importantly, they serve you well in everyday moments. Learning to appreciate the small things your partner does, pulling back on an argument with your child, and taking courageous steps towards accomplishing your goals all become easier when you have a wealth of inner resources.

How it Works

If you have a passing familiarity with pop neuroscience, you know the phrase “neurons that fire together wire together.” Your brain is an association machine and when we make associations, we learn. In his book, Dr. Rick Hanson calls upon you to use the brain’s knack for association to resource yourself–to H.E.A.L. the parts of yourself that are wounded and thrive in your daily life.

Metta meditation asks you to cultivate compassion. You do this by focusing on your heart, repeating the same phrase, and being aware of what compassion feels like in the body. The sustained attention to the emotion helps it grow and fill you up.

Hardwiring Happiness is asking you to apply the same general practice to your other inner strengths.

(In the Alert Authentic Mindful Group on Facebook, we are doing a 21-day challenge inspired by Dr. Rick Hanson’s book. Hardwiring Happiness. Please join us!)

Why You Should Do It

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Dr. Hanson spends the first part of the book going over some of the science and answering the question Why we want to learn the skills he is going to teach us in the second half of the book.

Our brains have a negativity bias. This is in our evolutionary past *not* noticing a pretty flower is okay; *not* noticing a tiger means death. Hardwiring Happiness is not about ignoring tigers. There are and always will be negative things in our lives that we need to pay attention to–and actually, some experiences that feel bad are good for us in the long run.

That does not mean that we should ignore the positive or leave it to our brains to notice it. We want to help our minds pay attention to the lightness and the dark–to quit giving undue attention and power to the negative.

The Human Default

Our world is vastly different today than in our evolutionary past. For our ancestors, serious stress was related to serious stress. Tigers, fear of banishment, and snakes. Sadly, our brains cannot tell the difference between these very real threats to our lives and too much traffic on the highway. We have so many stressors today, including but not limited to the intense and frequent technology stress that we get from renewing our Facebook page. Stress reactions used to be occasional but they are now frequent. Our bodies are now in a constant state of reactivity which is not good for our health, mental or physical.

Responsiveness, as opposed to reactivity, used to be our norm. There weren’t lions around every corner. In social situations, we were less knee-jerk and more of the present and open.

This book will help give you the tools to return to that state or responsiveness by paying attention to the positive around us and turning mental states into neural traits by helping strengthen the bonds between neurons that focus on the beneficial in your daily life.

The Method

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Follow this simple acronym: HEAL

H: Have an experience

E: Enrich

A: Absorb

L: Link

Have an experience: This is the easy part. This month, some experiences will just crop up during the course of your day; some you might have to create for yourself.

Enrich: Think of moments when you naturally feel complete. People often have them on vacation or during the holidays–they look around at their family members and their surroundings and are overwhelmed with gratitude.

You can create this kind of feeling by taking time out of your day to enrich positive experiences. While it may not envelop you in the way it does when it comes naturally, you can make it a much bigger part of your life.

Absorb: This step will often happen at the same time as enrich. As you are making the experience bigger and more embodied, visualize it sinking into you. Maybe you like the idea of gold dust sinking into your center; or maybe you want to picture electricity pulsing in your brain and creating your experience. Whatever it is, try to make the beneficial feeling more apart of you.

Link: One of the reasons that our memories of the past are so bad is because each time we recall them, we can modify them. We can use this little quirk of our brain to heal parts of us that are hard to handle.

When you “link,” you hold the positive experience in the forefront of your mind and call up a negative experience–holding it on the sidelines. Over time, this will gradually make those parts sting less.

HEALing is not about denying the negative in our lives, just paying the beneficial its due. 

(Please join us! We are already on day 4 of our challenge!)

If you have the time, listen to Dr. Rick Hanson go over some of the concepts on his podcast.

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SAVERS and CHARMS

Each morning for several months now, I perform my SAVERS.

This is an acronym created by Hal Elrod that spells out things you need to do in your routine each morning to be at your best—to have your Best Day Ever. I have spoken about Hal Elrod on this blog before. I really enjoy his energy, and find his podcasts interesting. He has guests on to discuss family and business life.

I am a strong believer that a lot of work that applies to business and leadership also applies to the family.

SAVERS Stands For:

S- Silence: Sitting in prayer or meditation

A – Affirmations: Stating your goals and knowing you can accomplish them

V- Visualization: Visualizing the path to success

E- Exercise: This one is pretty self-explanatory

R – Reading: Take a glance at some kind of self-help or self-development book or article

S- Scribing: A word used for writing, because SAVERW didn’t look as good. This usually means journaling.

I think the way that visualizations and affirmations are done in this routine are far better than any I have heard of before. Visualization should not just be the end goal, but the process of getting there. Affirmations should not be passive–”Money flow to me”–and they should not lie–”I am rich.” Instead, they should be goals, with details on how to reach them, and the confidence that you can.

My TMM

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For instance, one of my morning affirmations is:

“I am worthy and capable of creating the life that I want. I have all the tools that I need to be an excellent mother. I will respond sensitively to my son’s cues. I will raise him to have balance, resistance, insight, and compassion. I will do this by helping him to identify his emotions in his body, helping him see them in others. I will be an emotional coach. I will create a secure attachment. I will be the calm in his storm.”

I have others for being an excellent partner, making friends, being a blogger, being fit, creating a warm home environment, etc.

On an ideal day, I do 20 minutes of yoga each day, followed by visualizations and affirmations. Then I do 10 minutes of mindfulness meditation. I do a bit of gratitude journaling, and then write my daily goals and evaluate the previous day’s successes and shortcomings. a few minutes of gratitude journaling. I usually read a parenting, self-development, or entrepreneurship book.

Some days are less perfect. I wake up tired and feeling lousy. I put my son on my chest and do 5 minutes of loving-kindness meditation so I can forgive myself. I get up and stretch. I close my eyes while I picture my future, and say my most important affirmation—the one about being a mother. I read one page of a book, write down 3 things I’m grateful for, and get started with my day.

Some days are completely wonky and it takes me all day to finish my mourning routine.

Difficulties and Energy

It is hard for me to overstate how much better my life feels since I began doing this. I love having made a habit of it, and I have more energy each day. I started while I was 38 weeks pregnant because my energy levels were quickly declining, and I was so pleased with the results that.

Since then, I started my blog, have lost all of my pregnancy weight and more (four-month postpartum), made friends with new people—which I had avoided doing for the year previous in my new location—and began freelance writing.

I have remained calm and energized through all of the struggles of new parenting. My son is on his four-month sleep regression, so I haven’t slept for more than two hours straight for over three weeks. But I feel fine.

Right after I finished doing the laundry, he pooped on the bed when I was changing him. I could breathe.

He wants mom and mom alone, all of the time right now. I can appreciate this short season of his life—even if it is sometimes a bit exhausting!

This is everything I wanted out of parenting, and I give partial credit to The Miracle Morning.

CHARMS

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TMM has many spin-offs to help different people in different areas of their lives, whether it is writers, entrepreneurs, or millionaires. Lindsay McCarthy created The Miracle Morning For Parents and Families

In it, she details a miracle morning routine more suited to children. Her daughter was three and her son was seven when they started the routines. Some people say that they have started with their two-year-olds.

Instead of the SAVERS, though, children perform CHARMS.

CHARMS stands for:

C – Creativity: Let your children engage each morning in some kind of creative activity. Whether that is drawing, painting, or playing instruments.

H – Health: This includes exercise, with an emphasis on diet. I think this HIIT workout for children is a great way to teach them exercise. Exercise and diet both contribute to our well being and ability to regulate emotions.

A – Affirmations: A child doesn’t have to be as specific in their goals. Help them think of ways that they like to be. “I am going to be helpful today by cleaning toys up with my sister,” or “I am going to be brave today by trying a new thing.”

R – Reading: Reading as a family is an amazing experience and one that is highly correlated with academic success. Try to carve out some time to read as a family. Older children may enjoy reading by themselves.

M – Meditation: This combines visualizations and silence. Some children might enjoy sitting and meditation. But many will not. Consider telling your children a calming story while they keep their eyes closed and picture it. Listen to the Peace Out podcast if you aren’t much of a storyteller yourself.

S – Service: Be of service to others. This could be doing chores (which Lindsay calls Family Contributions) or any other way your children or you can come up with that involves meeting the needs and desires of others.

You need to make this fun for your children, not a chore. Playfulness keeps children interested. It is also their primary way of learning, especially under seven-years-old. It can’t be something that mom and dad force on their kids.

The SAVERS and CHARMS will set you and your children up for The Best Day Ever so that you can have The Best Lives Ever.

Self-Care Isn’t Fun

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I am making friends.

I am making friends because they are something my children and I will need.

I am making friends even though it is draining and often feels like a waste of time.

I am making friends even though the results won’t start to really shine for a couple of years.

I am making new friends as a form of self-care.

What do you think of when you hear the term self-care?

If you think of chocolate covered strawberries and $150 massages, then you are thinking the wrong thing.

True self-care is not about what feels good in the moment. It is often the things that we don’t want to do. It is about restructuring your life so that you don’t feel you have to run away from it. It is about creating habits that make you a healthy, energetic, centered person.

Self-care is about reducing the influence of people who you love dearly who are unhealthy and unhappy. Even if they’re not toxic to you, personally. Because they are dragging you down physically and mentally. And it isn’t correlation.

It means delaying gratification. It means working 10 to 20 minutes a day on some project or skill and seeing no results for a long time. It means reframing your thought process and not being able to take a picture of it. It means focusing on immeasurables with little to no short-term payoff and no end in sight.

While meditation may some day feel good, you might hate it. But it doesn’t matter.

While exercise may some day feel good, you might resent it. But it doesn’t matter.

While journaling may some day feel good, you might look down on it. But it doesn’t matter.

Self-care is about doing these things that make you happier and healthier in the long run.

 

Many of the people who do them regularly do not enjoy them. Most of the people who work out 5 times a week are not thrilled to be going to the gym again; and many of the people who meditate feel like idiots with racing minds half the time when they sit down.

But they do it any way. Not because it is fun or because they’re disciplined, but because they know they need to in order to have a life that doesn’t scare and exhaust them. They do it because they’ve created automaticity for all of these healthy habits—they’ve set up a systems that make them feel odd if they don’t do these unexciting practices.

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Self-care is about creating those systems.

About adding extra steps between yourself and the easy, destructive thing you want to do; and creating fewer steps between the difficult, healthy thing you know you need to do. It means putting the soda in the garage and putting the toothpicks out right next to your toothbrush.

It means getting rid of things that clutter your house, the stuff that reminds you to be sad or to have a drink. It means setting upper limits on your sugar consumption and setting lower limits on how much time you spend walking each day.

Self-care is about recognizing the things in your life that matter and take work, and then working on them, even though you can let them slip by on any given day and it would be hard to notice.

It means putting work into your relationship each day so that you aren’t just coasting along on comfortable until your partnership succumbs to entropy.

It means seeing that you’ve addressed the healthy mind platter to make sure you’re getting all of your little mind-nutrients so that you can be fulfilled.

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Treating yourself can be nice. Go get the massage, have a piece of chocolate, take a vacation.

But this is not what self-care is. Self-care is making the decision to build up the nitty gritty habits that take away what makes you feel frazzled, hectic, and beaten down, and replacing it with things that make you feel full.

Metta

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Mindfulness meditation is a big focus of this blog because it gives you a lot of benefits that are well-studied.

But mindfulness meditation is not the only kind of meditation available. Today, I want to talk about one of the other types that I find useful.

This meditation is about filling you with loving-kindness. It is called metta. It is a meditation that is used to cultivate compassion. Compassion is a very important part of leadership; it is one of the best way to relate to children—better then empathy. We use compassion so that we can feel for people, instead of feeling with them.

It is one of the easiest meditations to do without being guided.

You can use some variation of these words:

“May I be happy, may I be free. May I be comfortable, and at peace.”

Traditionally, you expand outward from there. To a loved one, you send the thoughts:

“May you be happy, may you be free. May you be comfortable, and at peace.”

I usually just set a ten minute timer, but any meditation app will have loving kindness meditations, and there are tons on Youtube.

Then you move outward from there. To an acquaintance, you say in your head:

“May you be happy, may you be free. May you be comfortable, and at peace.”

You keep expanding your circle outwards, even to those with whom you have conflict. You say:

“May you be happy, may you be free. May you be comfortable, and at peace.”

All the while, you are still practicing mindfulness. How does it feel, in your body, to wish yourself peace? How does it feel to wish your enemy peace?

You can become all-inclusive. Picture the whole world. Everyone you’ve ever loved, hated, or seen; and of course, your self.

“May we be happy, may we be free. May we be comfortable and at peace.”

Metta is most important to me on my hardest days.

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If ever I am having a hard time with my partner, I use metta to make sure I don’t let feelings go sour. Sometimes we can accidentally let occasional thoughts become habitual thought-patterns. This is one way to protect against that.

If ever I am feeling frustrated around my child’s sleep, I use metta to make sure I remember that he isn’t giving me a hard time, he is having a hard time.

Oftentimes, I don’t move past the first one. Loving kindness’ biggest advantage is for my feelings towards myself.

I sometimes feel like a bad mom. And when I do, I skip my mindfulness meditation. I skip most of the metta meditation. I just focus on feeling good towards myself. More than anything, I need to Love Myself Like My Life Depended On It, because if I’m not at my best, I can’t be at my best for my child.

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Practicing radical self-acceptance is tough. It might be tough to accept it is a good idea. You might think that practicing self-acceptance gives you some kind of pass to not improve. But it is the opposite. When you don’t think your self-worth is attached to your performance, you are more likely to identify your faults and try to improve yourself. You aren’t locked in by your self-identification as smart, or strong, or whatever it is that it is a label you feel necessary to uphold. It’s the growth mindset.

Just as for our children, acceptance does not mean accepting all behavior, it means accepting emotions.

Set up a routine for metta. Put it into your rotation, or just call upon it when you need it most.

This is Enough

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Frustrated, but fine.

That is enlightenment. This is no desire.

When we look to become mindful, to be more at peace with ourselves, it means focusing on our meta-cognition.

Anyone who has had depression or anxiety will be familiar with this. Anyone who has had a fight with a loved one that they wish they hadn’t gotten into. Anyone who has made a small mistake and berated themselves for it.

You are depressed because you are depressed. You are anxious because you are anxious. You can see yourself answering snidely to your partner and can’t stop. You are beating yourself up and making more mistakes because you’re so focused on the mistake that you made.

This is one level above regular thinking. One level below regular thinking is feeling. One level below that is surviving—the part of us that goes into fight, flight, freeze, or faint. That lizard brain that tells you if something is an emergency or not is nestled below all of these other layers, and we can’t reach it.

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Here though, on the metacognitive level, at the top of all those layers we have some control. Although it isn’t complete, it is a skill we can build. There is a feedback system. Training our most conscious level of thought trains our everyday-brain, the decision-brain. Once we feel consciously that we can make decisions, our feeling-brain will calm down and then, maybe, just maybe, our lizard brain will start to frame the world differently. Maybe it stop identifying everything as an intense.

Reaching deep down into those levels requires you to be gentle to yourself, to accept that you might always feel on edge. But that you can deal with it and you aren’t bad for it.. You are going to be sad, mad and glad. You are going to be tired, tried, tortured, and taken for granted. You have to accept that this is the task you were granted as a person, and as a mother.

What’s more, you’ve been tasked to be completely okay with it.

To say: this is enough.

To say: No desire.

One of the most common problems that people have when they discover mindfulness or meditation is they want badly to do it right. Multiplying this problem is that they have no clue what a good meditation would look like. Solidifying it is that they’re coming from a place of wanting, and they know it.

Let me demystify meditation. You can’t do it wrong. There is no such thing as a good or bad meditation. Even if you think during meditation, “Is this a good meditation?” you still have not ruined it. You’ll have a better go of it if you can let go of that idea, but in any case, the answer is: That’s not a thing. You aren’t supposed to feel at peace. Get rid of the idea that it will happen.

Right then, all you’re supposed to be doing is looking, from this top rung of the ladder, at what your brain is doing, and calling your attention back to the breath.

Right then, in that mindful minute, when you feel your face getting red and water behind your eyes, all you’re supposed to do is say: This is what is happening. This is fine. This is enough, I am enough.

You will still cry.

Right then, when your baby is crying, and you’ve done all the things that you can do to soothe him, you’re supposed to feel your heart breaking, feel the alarms going off in your head, and say: This is fine. This is enough. There is not a problem here.

Baby will still cry.

But the point is not to stop your crying, or baby crying; it isn’t even to stop feeling sad about your hurting baby or aching heart. It’s only to say: This is fine.

Not passively, not before you’ve done what you can to resolve the situation. If you’ve remedied all physical possibilities, then your mindfulness is the next step towards a resolution. Once the actions were taken and the pain is there and there’s nothing left to do, just say: This is enough.
Journal Questions:

  1. What emotion do I have the hardest time accepting in myself?
  2. What emotion do I have the hardest time accepting in my child?

Practice:

  1. When baby cries or your toddler begins a tantrum, try to look at him or her and not react for 1 whole minute. Just breathe and say it is okay.