The past few months have been stressful and filled with unexpected circumstances. Many of us have been pushed to our limits in relationships, caregiving, at work, or just coping with our own mental health. We are all doing the best we can, and sometimes reminding ourselves of these circumstantial parameters can alleviate some of the critical judgment and social comparison that leaves us feeling like we are not enough. At times like these it seems crucial to practice self compassion with intentionality and sincerity. However, often we just say “I am going to be more self-compassionate to myself”. But for many of us we do not know how to go about actually practicing that.
One of the experts in the field of practicing mindful self compassion is Dr. Kristin Neff, Associate Professor Human Development and Culture, Educational Psychology Department, at the University of Texas. On her website Dr. Neff defines self compassion as including three different element:
1) Self-kindness vs. Self-judgment
2) Common Humanity vs. Isolation
3) Mindfulness vs. Over Identification
On her website Dr. Neff also provides eight examples of self compassion exercises that you can practice at home. She also provides ten guided meditations that you can listen to for free, to help you start a personal meditation practice through the lens of loving kindness and self compassion.
If you feel like you need some extra self love today, feel free to try a meditation or self compassion exercise from Dr. Neff. It may be a helpful start to a lifelong journey of learning to care for yourself and be your own best friend.
More information about Dr. Neff, her understanding of self compassion guided meditations and self compassion exercises can be found HERE.
How do you practice self compassion in your life? Let us know on our social platforms.
Summer is here, and because of COVID19 there are few places to go to. You may not be on summer vacation anywhere tropical, but it might be the perfect opportunity to get to that stack of books you have been keeping beside your bed. I recently finished the book “In this Moment” by Kirk Strosahl Phd and Patricia Robinson Phd, published in 2015.
This quick read informs the reader of a mindfulness approach to managing stressors. What I enjoyed most about this book was that it is was not focussed on developing a meditation practice, rather, it was focussed on bringing mindfulness skills in our every day lives. This book focuses on five facets of mindfulness and dedicates chapters to teaching skills in each of these five domains. The five facets of mindfulness discussed by Strosahl and Robinson include: 1) Observe, 2) Describe, 3) Detach, 4) Love yourself , and 5) Act Mindfully.
I enjoyed reading this book because it helped to break down the illusive concept of mindfulness into tangible steps and concrete exercises that can be practiced to target each of these five skill domains. I appreciated that this book was not just theoretical but included components of the The Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire Short Form (Baer et al. 2008; Baer 2003). This tool helps to assess areas of strength and deficit before starting to develop the skills included in the book. After reading each chapter and practicing the exercises you can reassess yourself within the particular domains and recognize your areas of growth. Each chapter also included a section dedicated to explaining the particular mindfulness facet from a neuroscience perspective, helping the reader to explore what area of the brain is in charge of that skill.
My favourite quotes from In This Moment:
“We've been taught to reject the growth-producing aspects of daily stress and instead focus our energy on finding ways to eliminate or control our symptoms of stress. Instead of seeing those important symptoms as signals that life might be out of balance in some important way, we try to kill the messenger” (pp. 17).
“The only medicine we know of that can cure the problem of living life on autopilot is to live life deliberately, according to what matters to you...listen to your stress, accept that it’s there, and adopt a deliberate, mindful approach that will help you transcend it…. If you aren’t willing to have stress, then stress will have you… the mere fact that you have daily stress means there are things in your life that you care about. If nothing mattered to you, you wouldn’t have any stress at all” (pp. 18).
If you have given this book a read already let us know what you think on our social platforms.
If you have any books that you would like Wellness Wednesday to review please send your recommendations to our instagram page.
Last Wednesday I chose to take a hiatus out of respect for the anti-racism protests that arose around the world in response to the atrocities that took place in Minneapolis. Wellness Wednesday fully supports the equal treatment of all people, and is horrified by the acts of racism that continue to persist in our society.
Taking a pause on posting helped me reflect on how I consume social media, and how I, as a creator and consumer of media, can move forward in a healthy manner. This is a complicated topic. Consuming media about distressing topics leads to an obvious emotional strain. At the same time, as a privileged individual I recognize that feeling uncomfortable is an important part of what propels growth and change.
Simultaneously, in the wake of an already stressful few months in the world, I also recognize the utility of taking a pause, and mindfully navigating a more balanced approach to media consumption.
I recently listened to the Ted Talks podcast with author Elizabeth Gilbert who discussed the impact of language on our perspective and interpretation of a given experience.
This podcast helped me begin to think differently about the way we are perceiving our current situation, and perhaps our ability to see it in a more favourable light. For example, the word quarantine, a word which describes living circumstances that we are all currently experiencing helps to solidify the negative emotional experience of fear and isolation. Although this is certainly not a positive experience in our world, maintaining that perspective may exacerbate negative emotions and impact our ability to cope. Elizabeth asked the audience to imagine calling our current experience a “retreat” rather than quarantine and how this wording might help to open our minds to the potential for growth during this unique experience.
Another word choice that is discussed by Elizabeth Gilbert is focussing on developing “compassion” for the experience of others during this stressful time, rather than cultivating “empathy” which may be too taxing on our wellbeing during the current pandemic. She discussed how empathy is usually a good thing, but truly feeling the pain of others may be too much to ask of ourselves to give right now. Rather, having compassion for the pain of others maintains the appropriate and necessary boundaries that allow us to show care and concern while being aware of the amount of suffering we are already experiencing in ourselves.
Our words can also indicate our cognitive biases and distortions. Most of the time we do not even realize how our words articulate and reinforce errors in thinking that limit our view of a situation. One of the most common cognitive distortions that I see being used by my clients is black & white / all or nothing thinking. They say “I’ll never be able to find a job” or “I’m always awkward on dates”. Without realizing it, we let our word choices dictate our perspective and therefore our beliefs about ourselves, the future, and the world.
In respect for the current rallies in protest of racism, it is also important to acknowledge the language that we use intentionally or unintentionally that reinforces stereotypes, racism or hatred of any kind. Although it is explicit racism that makes the news and makes us shudder, implicit racism is perpetuated with our words, comments and questions, not realizing the implications and messages that they communicate.
In an effort to try and actively create a better experience for myself I am choosing to be more aware of the words that I am using and how they impact my mood, my perspective, and my treatment of others.
What have you noticed about the words you have been using lately? Connect with us on our social channels to let us know.
I recently stumbled across Netflix’s docu-series The Mind Explained, which explores popular psychology topics over the course of six twenty-minute episodes. The episodes cover topics, such as anxiety, dreams, mindfulness, memory, and hallucinogenic drugs. I found the series to be educational and informative, while being simultaneously engaging and easy to grasp for non experts.
Each episode presents research from topic experts, a history on the topic and stories of individuals who have personally experienced the related topics, practices or activities. I enjoyed how these brief episodes are short enough to give you a better understanding of these pop psychology topics without boring the viewer. If you are not the type to want to read a book about anxiety or a full documentary on dreams, The Mind Explained may be the perfect bite size programming to teach you something new from the comfort of your couch or bed.
So if you are looking for something more educational than a christmas movie this week, The Mind Explained may be the perfect series to both binge and expand your mind in the process.
I don't know if I’m just now noticing, but book titles have been getting a lot bolder lately. But hey, it seems to be working because it got me to pick it up and buy Let That Sh*t Go.
Let That Sh*t Go is a self-help book written by two women passionate about Mindfulness. It’s a casual read that it easy to connect with. It’s conversational style, makes the reader feel like they are talking to a friend who has had great success in therapy and is happy to share what they have learned. I enjoyed the brief and focused chapters, providing bite sized pieces to take in, digest and easily try out for yourself. Each chapter is example focused, assisting the reader in trying out alternative perspectives and techniques like “examining the evidence” and talking to your negative thoughts like they are on trial.
Let That Sh*T Gofelt relatable and introduced mindfulness as being much more than sitting down and meditating, something that often gets lost in the general media. I also like that in addition to a focus on mindfulness-based perspectives and techniques, there is a large portion of the book dedicated to understanding and working with our automatic negative thoughts, something that borrows from cognitive and cognitive-behavioural perspectives.
I was initially hesitant and critical of the book before I started reading it due to its brash title and seemingly unqualified authors who are not regulated mental health professionals. However, I let that sh*t go and soon found myself excited to begin a new chapter and discover great use of many techniques I have already been teaching my own clients.
One of my favourite mini chapters in the book was one that discusses the analogy of “updating your software”. It reminds us that our brain can also be a spinning rainbow circle or hourglass when our mental browser has too many tabs open or we’ve been ignoring the essential updates a little too long. Sometimes rebooting our software just requires a little bit of self-care.
Let That Sh*t Go is available at Amazon, Indigo, the library, and local sellers.
I recently had the pleasure to read The Ripple Effect by Greg Wells. It was an easy read, which makes it a perfect summer option. The Ripple Effect highlighted the relationships between diet, sleep, exercise, and cognition with health. Learning how these seemingly independent domains overlap to foster health and wellness was eye opening, but also immediately digestible.
I enjoyed how Wells seamlessly integrated research with narrative in a way that didn’t feel like I was digging into a textbook. I really appreciated how he went deeply into each health domain in a manner that leaves the reader feeling increasingly motivated to implement behavioural changes as they progress through each chapter. Importantly, at no point did this process seem daunting or overwhelming.
The Ripple Effect is a great book for any age and individuals of all levels of readiness for change in their wellness journey.
The Ripple Effect is available on Amazon, Indigo and many individual retailers.
Join us the first Wednesday of each month for our Wellness Book Club, where we will introduce readers to great books or author profiles that can help you along your wellness journey. Have a book we should review? Send us a comment and we will add it to our list.
Sometimes when we self reflect with honesty we will recognize certain flaws within ourselves.
Maybe it’s the recognition that we could have responded to a friend more compassionately. Perhaps it’s the realization that we are partly to blame for the dissolution of a relationship. Sometimes we recognize that our actions were not aligned with our values, and other times we recognize that perhaps we have failed at something important to ourselves.
While recognizing our challenges and failings can be difficult, that awareness is also the first step towards growth and improvement. If we are not honest with ourselves how can we better next time?
Author, therapist, and speaker, Brene Brown often speaks of the importance of embracing vulnerability in order to be braver, more creative and more successful. She often discusses the importance of our desire to belong and how this can be conflicting with the need to fit in. She also shares how our failings in this regard can lead to shame and the impact this has on our ability to navigate our relationships with others and ourselves.
Knowing and understanding our shame may mean apologizing, taking a chance and opening up about something embarrassing, or acting in alignment with our values instead of expectations or norms. Letting shame hold us captive, however, isn’t helpful. We need to forgive ourselves and commit to being better next time. Brene has published many books, hosted Ted Talks and recently came out with a Netflix special called “The Call to Courage” that all touch on different aspects of these themes. I think that all of Brene’s work is worth checking out, but a great deep dive is her writings, and our book of the month, Braving the Wilderness (CLICK HERE to view on Amazon). If you are looking to ease yourself in to her work, consider checking out her TED Talk or Netflix specials.
Undoubtedly, like many you will be hooked and will want to binge on all of Brene’s work. Be compassionate and realistic with yourself, however, and try applying one of her principals. Once that gets integrated in to your day to day, why not revisit her work again and see what the next step is for you.
Jessica is a member of the clinical wellness and learning support team at FLEX Psychology. Jessica started Wellness Wednesday out of a desire to provide further opportunities for her clients to extend their wellness journey to all avenues of their life. You can learn more about Jessica by clicking here or by learning more about her and the clinical team at FLEX Psychology by clicking here.