Tag Archives: mindfulness

Largest Trial of Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques

A recent article in the New York Times had a headline that read, “Schools in England Introduce a New Subject: Mindfulness”. In reality, the British schools have launched a study to discover in today’s world of rapid change what mindfulness and mental health relaxation techniques will be most beneficial to students as they grow up under the pressures of the modern world.

Damian Hinds, the British education secretary, said in a statement, “Children will start to be introduced gradually to issues around mental health, well-being and happiness right from the start of primary school.” The National Health Service found that one in eight children in England between the ages of 5 and 19 suffered from at least one mental disorder at the time of their assessment in 2017. Another British study, released in November, 2018, indicated a slight increase in mental disorders in five to 15-year-olds, which rose to 11.2 percent in 2017 from 9.7 percent in 1999. Disorders like anxiety and depression were the most common. (New York Times, Feb. 4, 2019)

Mindfulness Techniques

As you will read if you the click through to the UK press release from the British Department of Education, the Department of Health and Social Care, and two current members of parliament, schools there are in the midst of the biggest trial ever of mindfulness techniques and other relaxation skills. 370 of England’s 20,925 primary schools will indeed be rolling out mindfulness as a new subject. While the value of mindfulness techniques has been tested extensively, this is the largest look at how it might make the lives of elementary students better, and how it will influence participants as they age.

Donna Torney in her book Mindfulness for Emerging Adults gives a great example of how mindfulness techniques can influence further development by imagining the brain to be a set of nesting Russian dolls:

If one of the smaller dolls has a chip or a gap, it may not be able to fit easily into the next doll. It may require going back and reshaping the smaller doll for the entire set to fit. Far better if we can avoid the chips or gaps in the first place.

Another benefit to exposing children to mental health issues is easing the stigma of mental illness. “Fear of judgment and ridicule about anxiety [mental health] issues often compels individuals and their families to hide from society rather than face criticism, shunning, labeling, and stereotyping. Instead of seeking treatment, they struggle in silence.” (Leutenberg, Liptak 2016). Kids are more likely than adults to speak out about mental health issues just as they do about just about everything else. Who hasn’t been embarrassed by a child saying something like, “Mommy, look at that giant!” just as your favorite NBA star passes by at the mall. Napoleon Bonaparte said, “Ten people who speak make more noise than ten thousand who are silent.” Informed children will speak out. Children who have a basic understanding of mental health and bullying will help their classmate who is being taunted by others.

Becoming Upstanders

In schools and out, bystanders who had simply stood there and watched a fellow student being bullied can become upstanders. Witnessing bullying is upsetting and affects the bystander, too.  These children have the potential to make a positive difference in a bullying situation. An upstander is someone who sees what happens and intervenes, interrupts, or speaks up to stop the bullying. Children who learn about mental health issues are more likely to become upstanders simply because exposure to mental health and what mental illness is demystifies if for them. Kids are less likely to make fun of what they understand. Furthermore, when youth who are bullied are defended and supported by their peers, they are less anxious and depressed than those who are not. (stopbullying.gov retrieved 2/4/19).

Portions of this article have been excerpted from:

Focus and Mindfulness

But it sometimes happens that I cannot easily shake off the village. The thought of some work will run in my head and I am not where my body is, I am out of my senses. In my walks I would fain return to my senses. What business have I in the woods, if I am thinking of something out of the woods?

-Henry David Thoreau
Woman Painting Focus Mindfulness

Focus can be improved

Focus can be improved using mindfulness-informed tools that are designed to increase mental concentration and inner calm. The art and science of focusing has many faces. It may look like a man sitting in solitude on a meditation cushion, or a woman sitting in a café slowly sipping from a paper cup, mindfully watching her thoughts. At other times the face of focus is a person absorbed in an art project, or a group of friends on a ten-mile run, or a teen absorbed in her favorite music. Of course, all of these activities can be done unmindfully – without focus – but they are infinitely more rewarding when performed with attention to the present moment. When we focus on our present moment experience, the brain rewires itself in such a way that it makes the experience more satisfying. With practice, we can gain the ability to focus on demand. Take a minute to think of an area in your life that could benefit from more focus.

Focus can arise when we are moving just as easily as when we are sitting. Stilling the mind is what matters. If you are feeling especially physically or mentally agitated or if the busyness of your life is getting you down, try these suggestions calling for stillness or internal focus. Building mental focus will benefit each one of the four domains of your life: balance, belonging, focus, and meaning.

Take note of what is distracting you – if you don’t feel ready for a meditation practice it’s okay. Start by noticing what is distracting you.

  • Are your distractions fear-based – are you worrying about some future outcome?
  • Are your distractions fantasy-based – is there something you don’t have that is stopping you from living your life in the here and now?
  • Start by noting what takes you out of the present moment – just taking note of what is keeping you in a state of distraction is a step toward mindfulness.

Perform a single routine task mindfully – fold laundry, wash dishes, feed the dog without slipping into autopilot. So often, we get up in the morning and do our routine in zombie mode.

  • Get out of bed and stretch for half a minute. What is the first thing you usually do in the morning? Can you do it with all your senses engaged?
  • Resist automatic thoughts and mentally rehearsing your to-do list.
  • You might find that the routine task is actually enjoyable, or you may decide to change the start of your day so that the very first task is something that feels pleasant, like reading a few pages in a good book versus checking your email.

Take a slow walk or run – routine exercise is another place where we can easily check our focus.

  • Take your walk or go to the gym as usual, but consciously slow down your pace.
  • Notice something new about the gym or the walking/running route you are on.
  • Refrain from projecting into the future or thinking about the past. Sure, you may burn a few less calories by slowing down, but what you gain in tranquility and calm will more than make up for it.

Pet or play with an animal – if you have one, your dog or cat can become your Zen master.

  • Take time out today to be with your pet and just with your pet. Animals are experts in being in the present moment.
  • Get down on the floor and get on your pet’s level. Gaze into their eyes as you play with or pet them.
  • Thank them for being your Zen master.

Belly breathe with a baby or small child – babies and young children can also anchor us to the present moment in a special way.

  • If you have an infant in your life, take some time to watch them while they nap. Babies have not learned the bad habit of taking shallow breaths. Take long, slow breaths like a baby.
  • If you have a toddler in your life, ask him or her to lie on the floor next to you. Place pillows on your bellies. Watch them as they float up and down on your belly as you take
    long, deep inhales and exhales.
  • Take some time to giggle with your toddler as the pillows rise and fall.

Walk barefoot – if the temperature allows, kick your shoes off and walk in the grass for a few minutes.

  • Walking barefoot requires mindfulness to avoid sharp objects or other outdoor goop.
  • It is also immensely grounding and healing.
  • Focus on how it feels to connect directly with the earth.

This is a good start to using mindfulness techniques to increase your ability to focus. Remember, without mindfully focusing on the present you will miss much of the experience.

Mindfulness for Emerging Adults Book Release

Excerpted from Mindfulness for Emerging Adults by Donna Torney, MA, LMHC, RYT.

Mindfulness for Emerging Adults: A Blog Series, Part II

Mindfulness Sleep Tips

On the Road to Mindfulness: Finding Balance

The information from the series of articles on Mindfulness focuses on learning to be mindful by, in part, regaining balance as we teach emerging adults stress reduction skills, ground participants in their present surroundings, and help them make the important connection between daily routines and health. It is designed to reset an overwhelmed nervous system so emerging adults and others are then free to focus on finding strong social connections, and meaningful, sustainable work. Emerging adults will have an easier time rediscovering motivation and happiness after anxiety, stress, and low energy are addressed, and routines that foster self-confidence are established.

October’s blog focused on food and exercise issues. This month we are looking at the all-important issue of getting a good night’s sleep.

Mindfulness Sleep TipsAn important part of finding balance in our lives is discovering a way to get the sleep we need. Many college students, new mothers and fathers, the elderly, and almost everyone in between seem to be overtired all the time. A few folks will sit in the coffee shop, drink their third double espresso, and brag about how little sleep they need. Surviving on a caffeine buzz and adrenaline from deadlines, they think they are still performing at their optimum level. They are ignoring the fact that all things in the natural world have rhythms and routines. Consider the phases of the moon, the waves of the ocean, the seasons of the year. Humans, too, have rhythms. Unlike the rest of the natural world, we often work against the natural cycle of work and rest by denying our bodies and brains enough sleep every night.

Sleep Tips and Sleep Facts

Read the sleep facts below and choose a couple of sleep tips to try. Remember, change doesn’t happen over-night – pardon the pun – so don’t expect results the next morning. Practice the new behaviors for a month and you will see a positive change in all aspects of your life.

Sleep fact: Memory consolidation – the ability to learn and record new ideas – is greatly enhanced by a good night’s sleep, as is our ability to be creative. This is the science behind the phrase, let me sleep on it. During sleep, neuronal pruning takes place, helping us shed neuro networks that we no longer use, experience mental clarity, and make better decisions.

Sleep tip: The next time you have a big decision to make, write down a summary of the situation. Place the summary away from your sleep area. Ask sleep to help you with the answer. In the morning notice if you slept better and have more clarity. By following this process, chances are good that you will come up with a creative answer to your problem.

Sleep fact: Ghrelin, the hunger hormone, is released when we are sleep deprived. When we deprive our body of sleep, the nervous system receives a stress signal, making us hungrier.

Sleep tip: Going to bed with a stomach that is too full or too empty may disturb your sleep. An hour before bed, have a small, easy to digest snack, like a small bowl of yogurt, whole-wheat toast, or a glass of warm milk.

Sleep fact: Studies show that one night of poor sleep inhibits the immune system by 25 to 30%. Take note of the connection between your seasonal allergies and colds and your good sleep habits.

Sleep tip: Note in your journal how many hours you slept. At the end of the day enter how your seasonal allergies and/or colds felt. Note the correlation between adequate sleep and how your body reacts to outside stimuli such as pollen.

Sleep fact: Experimenting with your ideal sleep schedule is an essential part of getting quality rest.

Sleep tip: Try to go to sleep and wake up as close as possible to the same time each day. If this seems boring or unsustainable, try adjusting your sleep/wake times to something that works for you.

Sleep fact: Shaking off physical and mental stress at the end of each day will lead to better sleep.

Sleep tip: Practice gentle stretching to release the day’s tension before you get into bed. Take note of one or two accomplishments of your day in your centering journal. Resist the natural tendency of noting what’s left on the to-do list.

Sleep fact: Make your room a sleep sanctuary by limiting activity.

Sleep tip: Keep your room cool, dark, and quiet. If noise and light are a problem, try earplugs and an eye mask. Break the habit of falling asleep in front of a screen. The blue light from electronics sends a signal to the brain to stay awake. Instead, get into bed and take some long, slow breaths with extra-long exhales. Relax all the muscles in your body staring at your feet, think about feeling heavy and relaxed. Welcome sleep!

Mindfulness for Emerging Adults Book ReleaseThe sleep tips and sleep facts material above has been excerpted from Mindfulness for Emerging Adults by Donna Torney.

Mindfulness for Emerging Adults: A Blog Series, Part I

Mindfulness for Emerging Adults in the Digital Age

Mindfulness for Emerging Adults Book ReleaseMindfulness has been a hot trend this year. We hear all kinds of inspiring stories about how folks have used this ancient tool to become a better employee, student, partner, and person. Since the scientific community has become interested in mindfulness and other age-old contemplative arts, studies have proven the value of the ability to be fully present in what you do.

Mindfulness has been described as, “A state of mind in which people can observe mental activity without attaching to it or evaluating it.” (Leutenberg, Liptak, 2013) Using mindfulness, people can forge a path to find authentic identity and healthy personal and community connections, creating a good life in the digital age.

Emerging adults who are today defined loosely as those between 18 and 33 years-of-age, have always had rites of passage as they move from youth to a fully functioning adult. In today’s world of constant change and pressure to succeed, these milestones have changed drastically, even since our grandparents time. Although we can now communicate with the world at the drop of a cell phone, more and more people are finding themselves disconnected and lonely.

As they learn about mindfulness and how to incorporate it into their lives, both young adults and their mentors will become more grounded in the present moment and experience more ease, contentment, and life satisfaction – a state that positive psychologists refer to as well-being. From this place of growing comfort and ease, young adults will become more discerning and forward thinking, ready to take on the challenges of emerging adulthood with youthful common sense.

We at Whole Person Associates will present a series of articles which will include materials to clarify the problems facing emerging adults and a path to overcome these issues. We hope you find them useful and encourage your comments.

Mindfulness 1

Why do we need Mindfulness for Emerging Adults in the digital age?

Just as it is a toddler’s developmental task to master walking and talking, it is the developmental task of emerging adults (young adults roughly 18 to 33 years old) to build independence and intimacy. However, if we want these emerging adults to truly thrive in our society, we need to go beyond the developmental basics. We know toddlers need to feel loved and safe for optimum development to occur, but we sometimes forget that emerging adults need to be resilient, compassionate, optimistic, and connected to community to reach their full potential.

There are many advances in neuroscience that encourage seeing mindfulness and other contemplative practices as indispensable life skills. These ancient and now rigorously researched practices are more important than ever in our age of accelerated change, media overload, and chronic busyness. Because of the large interest in mindfulness by the scientific community, we now have evidence that these practices create positive change in the mind and body. By exploring and adopting mindfulness and other contemplative practices, emerging adults can forge a path to find authentic identity and healthy personal and community connections, creating a good life in the digital age.

Universally and eternally emerging adulthood is a transition time full of excitement and potential as well as risks and challenges. Facing our fears during times of transition is brave work. It may seem counterintuitive, but staying open-hearted and open-minded during the rollercoaster ride to adulthood gives us an opportunity to employ values-based decision making that will lead to balance, connection, and contentment.

In a series of eight articles we will explore four important categories: Balance, belonging, focus, and meaning. Each category will enable readers to build a personalized toolbox of skills. These skills will empower emerging adults to take control of stress and navigate difficult emotions. Both young adults and their mentors will become more grounded in the present moment and experience more ease, contentment, and life satisfaction – a state that positive psychologists refer to as well-being. From this place of growing comfort and ease, young adults will become more discerning and forward thinking, ready to take on the challenges of emerging adulthood with youthful common sense.

meditation-balance-rest-autumn-tree-trees-leaves

Balance

The Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation and Conscious Breathing.

No matter what our personal stress style, all human bodies respond physically to stress in the same way. Fortunately we have some simple and free tools at our disposal to help us counter the stress response. These tools can be practiced anywhere! Deep breathing allows us to access the underutilized rest and digest response. This response causes blood pressure to decrease and slows the heart rate. Gastric juices are released so that the body can digest and absorb the maximum amount of nutrition available in food.

The opposite of the rest and digest response is the over-utilized fight or flight response. In fight or flight mode, the heart rate increases, pupils dilate, and blood flow is rushed to the limbs to help us escape danger. This response happens whether the stressful situation is at work or at home; whether it is real or imagined.

The fight or flight response helps us remove ourselves from dangerous situations. Problems occur when these stress reactions happen too frequently and/or too close together. Then occasional stress becomes chronic stress. The body is then bombarded with stress hormones such as cortisol, and we run the risk of developing conditions such as sleep disorders, depression, heart disease, and chronic fatigue, among others. Stress can make us more vulnerable to illness and can prematurely age us. How we respond to chronic stress – going for a walk as opposed to smoking, for instance – will ultimately slow down or speed up these unwanted processes.

The exercises that follow will help with food issues and exercise issues.

Click here to download free exercises.

The material above has been excerpted from Mindfulness for Emerging Adults by Donna Torney.

Mindfulness Meditation and the Opioid Crisis

Mindfulness Meditation

Almost everyone in the US is aware of the current opioid crisis we are enduring. Millions of addicted are added each year. Since 1999 the use of opioids has increased five-fold. Statistics from 2016 (the latest available) show that 42,000 people died of opioid-related issues in just that one year.

What can be done to alleviate this crisis? In a paper titled “Mindfulness Meditation-Based Pain Relief: A mechanistic account”, Fadel Zeidan and David Vago report that research supports the claim that the widespread use of opioids to alleviate chronic pain has led to the exponential rise in misuse and addiction. Their paper further states that mindfulness meditation could very well be a narcotic-free tool to reduce chronic pain. (Vago, Zeidan, 2016.)

Mindfulness, research has learned, is an excellent complementary treatment for a variety of health and wellness concerns and aligns with scientifically-backed theories in modern psychology. The importance of increasing resiliency in the face of the inevitable difficulties, both physical and mental, can’t be reinforced too often. Although mindfulness-informed practices don’t magically change life circumstances, they can help cope with rapid change, life transitions, and physical symptoms (i.e. pain) as well as enable us to more fully savor success. (Torney, 2018.)

Mindfulness Meditation 30 ScriptsWith the above information in mind we present the following from 30 Scripts for Relaxation, Imagery & Inner Healing, Ed. 2, Vol. 1& 2 by Julie T. Lusk.

Relaxation and visualization can heal the body, mind, and spirit. Progressive muscular relaxation and conscious breathing help relieve tension and stress. Guided imagery encourages people to experience internal harmony, to heal emotional and physical upsets, to increase body awareness, to enhance relaxation, to get in touch with the healing source of energy for emotional and spiritual strength, to receive direction from their own inner guide, and to connect with the environment.

Here are some tips to help you use these mindfulness-meditation scripts effectively with your clients.

Working with guided meditations

Everyone is different, so each person will experience guided imagery uniquely. These individual differences should be encouraged. During a guided meditation, some people will imagine vivid scenes, colors, images, or sounds while others will focus on what they are feeling, or experience it as a concept. This is why a combination of sights, sounds, and feelings should be incorporated into the meditations. With practice, it is possible to expand your participants’ range of awareness.

By judicious selection of images you can help deepen their experience and cultivate their awareness in new areas that can enrich their lives. For instance, a person who is most comfortable in the visual area can be encouraged to stretch his or her awareness and increase his or her sensitivity to feelings and sounds. (See Flower Meditation below.)

Be careful, however, when presenting themes and techniques that are unfamiliar to you. Since people respond in a variety of ways to visualization, avoid generalizing about the benefits of any given script.

If your groups are composed of people who are emotionally ill or especially fragile, be sure you have the necessary special training or professional guidance before introducing them to visualizations.

Preparing the group or individual

Some type of physical relaxation sequence should be used prior to every guided meditation. Breathing properly is essential for complete and total relaxation. Unfortunately, very few people take full breaths, especially when under stress. When a person consciously uses deep breathing correctly, stress is reduced and the mind can remain calm and stable. It is important that people focus on their breathing, with full deep breaths through the nose. Before beginning any guided meditation, briefly describe the images you will use and ask if they make anyone feel uncomfortable. People who are afraid of water may find images of ocean waves to be frightening rather than calming. Be prepared with an alternate image. Let participants know that if they become uncomfortable, they may, at any time, open their eyes and tune out or change the visualization. As you read a script, people will follow you for a while and then drift off into their own imaginations. They will usually tune you back in later on. If they know this in advance, they won’t feel as if they are failing by being inattentive. So tell them this is normal and to let it happen.

Choosing the right atmosphere

Select a room that has comfortable chairs for sitting or a carpeted floor for lying down. Close the door and shut the windows to block out distracting noise. If possible, dim the lights to create a relaxing environment. Low lights enhance the ability to relax by blocking out visual distractions. If the room lights cannot be controlled to your satisfaction, bring along a lamp or night lights. Adjust the thermostat so that the room temperature is warm and comfortable. If the room is too cool, it will be hard to relax and remain focused. Suggest that people wear a sweater or jacket if they think they may get cold. If distractions occur—a noisy air conditioner, traffic, loud conversations—try raising your voice, using shorter phrases and fewer pauses, or incorporating the sounds into the guided meditation. For example, you might say, “Notice how the humming sounds of the air conditioner relax you more and more.” Or, “If your mind begins to drift, gently bring it back to the sound of my voice.”

Using your voice

Speak in a calm comforting, and steady manner. Let your voice flow. Your voice should be smooth and somewhat monotonous. But don’t whisper. Start with your voice at a volume that can be easily heard. As the guided meditation progresses and as the participants’ awareness increases, you may begin speaking more softly. As a person relaxes, hearing acuity can increase. Bring your voice up when suggesting tension and bring it down when suggesting relaxation. Near the end of the guided meditation, return to using an easily heard volume. This will help participants come back to normal wakefulness. You may tell participants to use a hand signal if they cannot hear you. Advise people with hearing problems to sit close to you. Another option is to move closer to them.

Pacing yourself

Read the guided meditations slowly, but not so slowly that you lose people. Begin at a conversational pace and slow down as the relaxation progresses. It’s easy to go too fast, so take your time. Don’t rush. Many script authors use ellipses…to indicate a brief pause. Spaces between paragraphs would suggest a longer pause.

Leader’s notes and script divisions should not be read out loud. Give participants time to follow your instructions. If you suggest that they wiggle their toes, watch them do so, then wait for them to stop wiggling their toes before going on. When participants are relaxed and engaged in the imagery process, they have tapped into their subconscious (slow, rich, imagery) mind—and they shouldn’t be hurried. When you’re leading the meditation, stay in your conscious (alert and efficient) mind. Pay careful attention to all participants. You may have to repeat an instruction if you see that people are not following you. To help you with your volume and tone, pace and timing, listen to a recording of yourself leading guided meditations.

As you reach the end of a meditation, always help participants make the transition back to the present. Tell them to visualize their surroundings, to stretch, and to breathe deeply. Repeat these instructions until everyone is alert.

Using music

Using music to enhance relaxation is not a new idea. History is full of examples of medicine men and women, philosophers, priests, scientists, and musicians who used music to heal. In fact, music seems to be an avenue of communication for some people where no other avenues appear to exist.

Your music should be cued up and ready to go at the right volume before you start your meditation. Nothing ruins the atmosphere more quickly than having the leader fool around trying to get the audio going. Jim Borling, a board certified music therapist, makes the following suggestions on the selection of music:

Tips on Music Selection

  • Custom select music for individual clients or classes whenever possible. Not everyone responds in a similar fashion to the same music.
  • Matching a person’s present emotional state with music is known as the ISO principle. If you can match the initial state and then gradually begin changing the music, the person’s emotional state will change along with the music. If a person is agitated or angry, begin with fast-paced music, and then change to slower-paced selections as relaxation deepens.
  • Choose music that has flowing melodies rather than disjointed and fragmented melodies.
  • Don’t assume that the type of music you find relaxing will be relaxing to others. Have a variety of musical styles available and ask your clients for suggestions.
  • Try using sounds from nature like ocean waves. Experiment with New Age music and Space music, much of which is appropriate for relaxation work. Classical music may be effective, especially movements that are marked largo or adagio.
  • Adjust the volume so that it doesn’t drown out your voice. On the other hand, music that is too soft may cause your listeners to strain to hear it.
  • Select music based upon the mood desired. Sedative music is soothing and produces a contemplative mood. Stimulative music increases bodily energy and stimulates the emotions.
  • Select music with a slow tempo and low pitch. The higher the pitch or frequency of sound, the more likely it will be irritating.

Processing the experience

You may wish to add to the richness of the guided meditations by asking participants afterwards to share their experiences with others. This can be facilitated by creating an atmosphere of trust. Ask the group open-ended questions that relate to the theme of the exercise. Be accepting and empathetic towards everyone. Respect everyone’s comments and never be judgmental or critical, even if people express negative reactions. 

Caution 

Do not force people to participate in anything that may be uncomfortable for them. Give ample permission to everyone to only do things that feel safe. Tell them that if an image seems threatening, they can change it to something that feels right or they can stop the imaging process, stretch, and open their eyes. Emphasize to participants that they are in total control and are able to leave their image-filled subconscious mind and return to their alert rational conscious mind at any time they choose. Likewise, clients may want to explore what feels uncomfortable to them in the safety of the experience. Advise participants that it is not safe to practice meditation or visualization while driving or operating machinery.

Integrating the mind, body, emotions, and spirit opens up vast inner resources of intuition, wisdom, and personal power. The mind and body are one, and what you believe and feel is reflected in your body. Sometimes your thoughts may lead to illness, aches, and pains; and other times, they lead to exhilarating feelings of joy, pleasure, and peacefulness. Likewise, the condition of your body and the way it is feeling affect your thoughts. This is why it is impossible to worry when you feel relaxed.

So many of us live as if fragmented—thinking of one thing, saying something else, acting one way publicly, while feelings, moods, and emotions provide a constantly changing and inconsistent undertow. Guided meditations will help you focus on using the mind body connection to heal the body and emotions and to bring thoughts, words, actions, and feelings into harmony and alignment.

A definition of mindfulness

Mindfulness is the moment-to-moment attention to the present without judgment or reactivity. Mindful breathing and other mindfulness practices help you to achieve moment to moment awareness in a non-judgmental, detached way, thereby increasing the amount of time per day spent in rest and digest mode. Conscious attention to breathing is common in many forms of meditation and is used by top athletes to enhance performance. The following exercise will help your clients breathe mindfully. Download the following Mindfulness Breathing exercise here.

Exercise:

  • Sit in a comfortable position either on a chair with your feet on the ground, or on the floor with your legs comfortably crossed. Sit tall with your spine extended so that your breath can enter your entire torso. Relax your shoulders down and move your shoulder blades towards each other.
  • Place one hand on your abdomen and the other above your chest near your collarbone.
  • Inhale deeply from the bottom of your abdomen. Feel the expansion pressing against your lower hand.
  • Continue to fill your torso until you feel the hand on your upper chest expand. Hold the breath for one second.
  • Release the breath from the chest to the abdomen. Picture a cup of water emptying from the top to the bottom as you exhale. Note how it feels to be empty of breath just for a second before your next inhale, then repeat this long, slow even breath nine more times. Return to the breath count as your mind wanders, which it naturally will.
  • Return to natural breathing. Take a moment to stretch, and write about your experience in your centering journal. Don’t worry if mindful breathing feels awkward or uncomfortable. It will feel more natural the more you practice. Remember, these are muscle responses. You can’t throw a football like Tom Brady or play the trumpet like Wynton Marsalis right off the bat, either. Practice, practice, practice.

Now your client is relaxed and breathing properly, try reading one of the following scripts, using the tips above to make it as effective an experience as possible.

 

Flower Meditation (Download Flower Meditation exercise here)
Julie T. Lusk
Excerpted from 30 Scripts for Relaxation, Imagery & Inner Healing, Ed. 2, Vol. 1
By Julie T. Lusk.

Time: 20 minutes

In this visualization script, participants increase their ability to imagine seeing, touching, smelling, and feeling.

Note: Obtain fresh flowers for participants before using this script.

Feel free to modify this script. For instance, flowers could be substituted with pine cones, sea shells, etc.

Script

Visualization

Place the flowers at eye level in front of you … Gently gaze at them without straining your eyes … Look softly at the shapes of the flowers, stems, and leaves … Become aware of their shapes and sizes. See their colors.

After you have spent a few minutes looking carefully at the flowers, close your eyes and visualize the flowers in your imagination. When the visualization becomes difficult, open up your eyes and look at the flowers once again. Close your eyes once more and recreate a vision of the flowers. Repetition will increase your ability to visualize images in the mind’s eye.

Touching and Feeling

Reach out and touch the flowers, stems, and leaves. Take your time to discover how the flowers feel … Explore the softness of the flowers and the feel of the stems and leaves. Discover their moistness, noticing the variety of textures.

Investigate the physical sensations of touching the bouquet of flowers. Run your fingers through the bouquet and listen to the sound of touching them … Allow the sense of touch to sink in through your fingertips and into your memory.

Stop touching the flowers and close your eyes. Experience the sense of touch through your memory … When the memory of touch begins to fade, reach out and touch the flowers with your fingers. And then imagine touching the flowers once again.

Smell

Bury your nose and take a full, deep breath. Let the flowers tickle your nose. Smell the fragrance and the freshness of the flowers. Enjoy.

Remember how the flowers smell and recreate the aroma in your imagination. Keep practicing until you are able to imagine the scent of the flowers from memory.

Thoughts and Feelings

Sit quietly and reflect upon the magnificence of the flowers. Open yourself up for new insights and realizations.

Integration

Relax, close your eyes, and imagine looking at a glorious bouquet of flowers … You may imagine any kind of flower you wish…roses … daisies … mums … baby’s breath … marigolds … bird of paradise … any type of flowers you wish.

See the radiant colors … the rich reds … luscious yellows … deep purples … pure whites … soft pinks … gorgeous oranges … all the shades of green.

Become aware of the textures … patterns … and shapes of the petals … Look at the leaves … and the stems … Observe the flowers in their various degrees of unfolding.

This time, imagine reaching out and touching the flowers … .Feel the softness … their moistness … the texture of the petals … leaves … and stems … Imagine rubbing the flowers with your fingers … Touch the flowers … Feel them.

Experience touching the flowers … Run your fingers through the flowers and listen to what you hear.

Now imagine the scents and fragrances of the flowers … Breathe in their perfume … Smell the aroma … Fill up your lungs with the fresh smell of the flowers.

Take some time to reflect on the diversity and beauty of the flowers that grow for our enjoyment … Think about the life cycle of the flower … Enjoy.

Pause

When you’re ready, open your eyes and stretch.

Repeat the above instruction until everyone is alert.

 

Sun Meditation for Healing (Download Sun Meditation for Healing exercise here)
By Judy Fulop and Julie T. Lusk
Excerpted from 30 Scripts for Relaxation, Imagery & Inner Healing, Ed. 2, Vol. 1
By Julie T. Lusk.

Time: 10 minutes

In this script, participants experience the healing power and energy of the sun as they imagine it warming and relaxing them.

Script

Allow yourself to become as relaxed and comfortable as you can … Let your body feel supported by the ground underneath you.

Slowly begin to see or feel yourself lying in a grassy meadow with the sun shining it’s golden rays gently upon you … Let yourself soak in these warm rays … taking in the healing power and life giving energy of the sunshine.

This magnificent ball of light has been a sustaining source of energy for millions of years and will be an energy source for millions of years to come … This ancient sun is the same sun which shined down upon the dinosaurs … upon the Egyptians while they built the pyramids … and it now shines upon the earth and all the other planets in our solar system and will continue to do so forever.

As the sun’s rays gently touch your skin, allow the warmth and energy to flow slowly through your body … pulsing through your bones … sending healing light to your organs … flowing to your tissues … recharging every system … and now settling into your innermost being … your heart center.

Sense your heart center glowing with this radiant energy. If you wish, give it a color … Take a few moments to allow this warm and healing energy to reach your innermost being … physically… emotionally … mentally … and spiritually.

Pause for 30 seconds

As this healing energy grows and expands, allow yourself to see, feel, and sense this energy surrounding your being … growing and growing … Allow this energy to grow further and fill this room … this building … surrounding this town … spreading throughout our state … to our country … and out into the world … and finally throughout the universe … reaching and touching and blessing all.

Pause for 30 seconds

You may share this healing energy and power with anyone you’re aware of right now … Mentally ask them if they are willing to receive this healing energy … If they are … send this source of healing energy to them … giving them the time they need to take in this energy and make it theirs in their own heart center.

Pause for 30 seconds

Now take your attention back to your own heart center … Find a safe place within you to keep this healing and powerful energy … a place to keep it protected and within your reach … Give yourself permission to get in touch with this energy whenever you wish.

With the warmth of this energy in your being, begin stretching, wiggling, and moving … Slowly open your eyes, feeling alive, refreshed, keenly alert, and completely healthy.

Repeat the above instructions until everyone is alert.

Coping Styles: More and Less Skillful Defense Mechanisms and Means

Coping Styles

The following material is excerpted from

Mindfulness for Emerging Adults: Finding balance, belonging, focus, and meaning in the digital age.

By Donna Torney MA, LMHC, RYT

The identity project: Encouraging mature coping styles

Early psychoanalytic thinkers defined common defense mechanisms, more frequently known as coping styles, that help individuals regulate emotions and reach goals. These defense mechanisms are often categorized as unhealthy, immature, and mature. The Harvard Men’s Study found a strong correlation between the use of mature defense mechanisms and triumphing over adversity in adult life. Buddhists and yogis may use the terms skillful or unskillful means, or mindfully healthy and unexamined unhealthy coping behaviors. Here’s a partial list of defenses and coping styles classified as less skillful means and more skillful means along with an example of how they may show up in emerging adult life. As you read through the coping styles, can you remember using some of the less skillful coping styles? Is there a defense mechanism you still use that keeps you feeling isolated?

Coping Styles Young Man AloneLess skillful means

When the less skillful defense mechanisms are in use, we usually feel as though we have no control over our environment. These coping mechanisms are often semi-consciously employed. In an attempt to gain control, we might resort to these defenses. Unfortunately, they often create more chaos.

Less Skillful Defense Mechanism Example
Aggression/Anger An overly stressed and frustrated individual responds by punching a wall or person.
Denial Ignoring the consequences of a dangerous behavior like unprotected sex, or binge drinking.
Displacement Taking out frustrations from work on a family member.
Somatization Mental stress and anxiety are ignored, but manifest as physical symptoms.
Dissociation Mentally removing oneself from a stressful situation losing connection with people or physical surroundings.
Wishful thinking/fantasy Adopting an unrealistic view of a situation rather than facing disappointment.

More skillful means

As we gain more life experience, we often learn more skillful coping mechanisms that help us feel more in control and capable of achieving independence and connectedness. At times we need mentors to help us move toward more skillful coping styles. A person who is using denial and ignoring the consequences of heavy drinking might start to consider the more skillful means of moderation. Someone who is ignoring mental stress but experiencing physical symptoms might identify with a friend who takes daily walks to manage stress and can start building his own awareness of the connection between mind and body.

More Skillful Defense Mechanism Example
Moderation A young adult who is struggling with spending too much time playing video games with friends decides to set a weekly time limit.
Patience/Acceptance Instead of bringing frustrations from work into the home, a roommate decides to talk to her trainer at work.
Identification Instead of letting unmanaged stress cause physical symptoms, a person in recovery identifies with the story of an ex-heroin addict who takes up running.
Sublimation/Altruism Rather than feeling sad about not having a significant other, two single friends sign up to volunteer at a local charity.
Humor Realizing that final exams are causing stress and low mood, a group of friends decides to watch a comedy on Netflix.
Anticipation Foregoing a weekly dinner out to save for an upcoming vacation.
Suppression Instead of lashing out and becoming consumed with a recent break-up a young musician waits until after an important performance to process the difficult emotions.

Click here for printable version of the charts above.

Coping Styles Friends TogetherNormalizing the circling back process and filling in developmental gaps

Many emerging adults are looking for help in finding intimate, meaningful relationships with friends and romantic partners. However, coping styles often lag behind chronological age. Most emerging adults don’t spend a lot of time consciously thinking about their coping styles. In fact, in traditional psychoanalytic theory defense mechanisms are thought to be subconscious.

We are at a critical point of human evolution and cultural identity. We can look at the industrial revolution and imagine what it was like to be a young adult raised on a farm trying to make the transition to a more urban way of life. We can look at the Sixties and imagine what it was like for an emerging adult trying to make good decisions during a time of radical social change. We are again facing a sea change. The current knowledge-based, digital age is radically changing the way we live and think about ourselves in the world, not to mention the way we take care of our basic needs. There are many benefits to this new way of life, but as with any big cultural change, wise application of innovation can make the difference between a thoughtless, joyless existence and a life well-lived. Building balance, belonging, focus, and meaning early in life and facing direct experience with clarity will lead to healthy decision-making and healthy identity development for the individual and society. Speaking with elders and looking back at past innovation and our adaptation to innovation will help us make wise choices with the newest wave of technology.

Voice of an Emerging Adult
Jake: Focusing and belonging

I thought I was doing a good job taking care of myself but my boss’s comments at the end of my review were kind of a wakeup call. This time when I walk into her office I hope she notices that my clothes don’t smell and I took a shower. I thought she was judging when she first brought it up, but I could tell she was just worried that I wasn’t taking care of the basics, like scheduling in time to do laundry and eat. It’s just so hard to focus lately.

The fights with Becca are getting worse. I have a stomachache almost all the time lately. I’m so jealous of any guy she talks to. Last night our fight was so bad that I hurt my fist by punching a wall. I hope I can still play at the show tonight.

I don’t know what my problem is. I’ve been on my own since I was nineteen. I’m twenty-seven now. I always thought of myself as being super independent. So why am I so obsessive and crazy about my girlfriend? Sure, Becca and I are splitting expenses and it would be hard to live on my own. But at this point I’m ready to couch surf again. I know how to get by on almost nothing. That’s how I was able to quit my job and tour with the band last year.

It’s been a good thing to stop drinking and stay away from drugs. Last week my co-worker had me try some deep breathing exercises. They helped a little. We also talked about how much I used to like to mountain bike. I realized I’m hardly ever outside anymore. I’m trying to think of a way to get back into enjoying time on my own.

I’m still having a hard time sticking to my goals. Part of me wants to apply to the community college for sound engineering. Part of me just wants to take off and do another tour, even though we hardly break– even financially when we are on the road and the basics – like healthy food – take a hit.

Jake is typical of the many emerging adults looking for help in finding intimate, meaningful relationships with friends and romantic partners. However, Jake’s coping style was lagging behind his chronological age. Most emerging adults don’t spend a lot of time consciously thinking about their coping styles, in fact in traditional psychoanalytic theory, defense mechanisms are thought to be subconscious. The contemplative exercises in Center Points will help emerging adults become more conscious of unhealthy coping styles and move toward more skillful means of managing stress.

Voice of a Mentor
Words from Jake’s grandfather:

Imagine what it was like to be young 65 years ago. It’s hard for me to watch Jake struggle. But when I was his age I was already a manager at the paper mill, was married, and Jake’s dad was on the way! It wasn’t easy but I can remember feeling proud. We had a good group of neighbors – some stayed our neighbors for fifty years! We didn’t get our first television until 1960. It seems every time Jake visits me he has a new gadget! Sometimes I get frustrated with Jake. Those tattoos! And I thought his dad was wild! I consider myself a modern thinker. Hell, I have a tattoo from the Navy. It was just  our way of bonding. Even an old guy like me can see all the changes. I read the papers. I can see how hard it is for Jake’s generation. I can also see how my wife may have been frustrated with being a housewife, raising three kids without access to a car every day. But it seems like Jake and his friends have fewer opportunities. We could buy a house on one income and easily pay it off on my manager’s salary. Not so for Jake and his friends.

A flexible identity

Identity formation is a life-long process. A healthy, flexible identity can serve as a resting place, a place where we can practice direct experience with pleasure, or at least with less discomfort. There are aspects of Buddhism and yoga that foster healthy human development. Combining these aspects with newer theories in Western psychology such as positive psychology and modern neuroscience make these ancient practices accessible and practical for use in everyday young adult living.

The rules of finding intimacy have changed drastically due to online dating and digital overload. The idea that someone looks good on paper but is completely different in person is a real challenge for young adults. Furthermore, in the digital age, emerging adults are bombarded with images, many unrealistic, about what a healthy, happy relationship should look like.

Voices of Emerging Adults
Tracey – Balancing outside expectations with personal goals, and formulating a genuine identity.

I thought once Peter and I got engaged and I had a good first job that I would feel more confident. But lately I’ve been so anxious. That’s why I decided to call Donna. I stayed home from work last Monday because I was overwhelmed with the wedding plans. I am trying to manage what my parents expect and what I really want. I just can’t keep letting my emotions get the best of me!

I’ve also been kind of hiding from my friends. I don’t understand why I can’t let go of other people’s standards and just live my own life. I have a great job and I just got a small raise. I’m just about the only one of my friends who can pay for an apartment and pay for my student loans. Why can’t I just relax?

Donna told me that I was sitting as still as a statue in our first session. The deep breathing has helped me relax a little and sleep better. I’ve stopped missing work but now I’m having doubts about Peter, which is really freaking me out!

I know everyone thinks we are the perfect couple. From the outside, everything looks ideal. We’ve been dating since sophomore year, and we are great friends. I really am a relationship person. I can’t deal with the thought of going back to online dating. Plus almost all my friends are getting married now.

Donna asked me to do a couple of exercises to help me think about my strengths, and things I value. I realized that I never work on my art anymore! I used to love going to museums and taking art classes. In fact I was hoping I could add more design work into my job description.

It’s just that Peter doesn’t like art that much, and I really don’t like doing things by myself. Like I said, I’m a very social person. I guess I really have been using this relationship to hide from my anxiety about being alone. Ugh! I can see now that the anxiety won’t go away if I keep running away from it and trying to make everyone happy.

Craving/grasping and aversion/avoidance:

Mindfulness for Emerging AdultsEmerging adults’ anxiety often increases at the same rate as the emerging craving to be able to express one’s true self. When a young adult has reached a point of discomfort then he or she is more willing to explore coping styles. Without an honest exploration of true identity and personal values we are all susceptible to getting caught up in what Buddhists and yogis identify as the suffering of clinging to ideas at one extreme, and the unhappiness of avoidance of experience on the other.

Every generation of emerging adults has faced its own particular flavor of clinging and avoidance. For those reaching adulthood in the digital age clinging might show up as unhappily and hypervigilantly checking Facebook for status updates, or clinging to media-driven ideas of work, friendship, and family. Avoidance can manifest as a rigid and anxious stance against new ideas that might prevent exploring reasonable opportunities.

Click here for Breathing for Balance exercise.

Click here for Mood Mapping exercise.

Mindfulness?

Mindfulness?

Excerpted from Mindfulness for Emerging Adults: Finding balance, belonging, focus, and meaning in the digital age

By Donna Torney MA, LMHC, RYT

Mindfulness has become a household word in popular culture causing some of us to see it as just another fad. But emerging adults can trust in mindfulness practices thanks to the large body of scientific evidence proving the benefits of this once esoteric idea. Recent studies have shown that mindfulness practices can help us manage stress and anxiety, better communicate with friends and co-workers, and build our ability to give and receive love and compassion.

Emerging Adult in a moment of MindfulnessMost researchers define mindfulness to include these two main components:

  1. Mindfulness is the practice of bringing yourself back to the present moment, over and over. Our minds are wired to have a sometimes anxiety-provoking bias toward planning for the future or remembering the past. Mindfulness practices tame this bias.
  2. Mindfulness is reacting to the present moment without judgment. Mindfulness practices help us build the capacity to notice, without self-criticism, when we lose sight of the present moment.

One emerging adult I work with describes mindfulness as the ability to be with one’s current set of circumstances without freaking out. She tells me that mini-mindfulness breaks at her workplace help her notice when she is having an automatic negative reaction to a situation, something that was getting in the way of her success at work. By employing mindfulness she found that she was better able to stay open to present moment experience in a way that helps her feel less threatened by new people and places. This skill, in turn, helps her with making conscious choices about her future and building more successful connections with peers.

Starting in the mid-20th century, in a time when millions of people were healing from the aftermath of two world wars, theories that elaborate on optimum human development began to emerge. These theories expanded on child development to acknowledge that adults continue to grow and evolve psychosocially way beyond the point of reaching full physical maturity. But this perpetual maturing only happens if we are willing to continue learning from life experiences and adapt in healthy ways – a process that demands mindfulness.

Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development

Young man emerging adult on campusErik Erikson’s classic model of psychosocial development has been used as a frame for exploring human growth beyond childhood by many prominent social scientists. Erikson’s model measures timeless developmental struggles and serves as a good frame when thinking about using contemplative exercises to foster positive adult maturity. Erikson went well beyond Freud’s focus on unconscious drives, seeking to legitimize theories of human altruistic potential.

Most scholars of human development see Erickson’s stages as flexible, to be expanded or contracted based on current cultural norms. They are not necessarily completed fully and sequentially. As balance is gained in one area of psychosocial development, it will affect the next area. This is good news! Life presents many twists and turns and often we must abandon straight-forward developmental maturity in order to survive. The beauty of Erikson’s model is that it acknowledges that individuals can circle back and revisit certain developmental processes.

Summary – Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development
Life stage Conflict Resolution or value attained Manifestation in adult life Example
Infancy (0-1 year) Learning basic trust vs. mistrust Hope Appreciation of human interdependence I accept help and trust that it is available.
Early childhood (1-3 years) Autonomy vs. shame and doubt Will Acceptance of the life cycle and impermanence I can manage disappointment
Play age (3-6 years) Initiative vs. guilt Purpose Humor, resiliency, compassion I don’t take myself too seriously; I take time to enjoy life.
School age (6-12 years) Industry vs. inferiority Competence Humility, accepting unfulfilled hopes I have both strengths and weaknesses.
Adolescence (12-19 years) Identity vs. role confusion Fidelity Merging of complex thought and emotions I take both emotions and logic into account.
Early adulthood (20-25 years) Intimacy vs. isolation Love Acceptance of the complexity of long-term relationships, openness, loving-kindness I am willing to work to maintain important relationships.
Adulthood (26-64 years) Generativity vs. stagnation Care Caring for others, empathy and concern My life has more meaning when Icare for my community.
Elderhood (65+ years) Ego integrity vs. despair Wisdom A sense of identity and integrity that tempers physical limitations I feel content and I accept the aging process.

 

A printable version of this chart can be found here.

The famous Harvard-Grant Study of Adult Development uses many of Erikson’s ideas. The Grant study followed a cohort of men who entered Harvard in the late 1930s, along with other less privileged young men. For over seventy-five years, this study has measured everything from blood pressure, to alcohol intake, to coping styles, and more recently, to brain activity. The study compares these measurements with the participant’s satisfaction and success in work and in relationships. Researchers involved with this longitudinal study are still collecting data and refining its findings on test subjects who are now in their eighth decade of life.

Most scholars of human development see Erickson’s stages as flexible, to be expanded or contracted based on current cultural norms. They are not necessarily completed fully and sequentially. As balance is gained in one area of psychosocial development, it will affect the next area. This is good news! Life presents many twists and turns and often we must abandon straight-forward developmental maturity in order to survive. The beauty of Erikson’s model is that it acknowledges that individuals can circle back and revisit certain developmental processes.

Mindfulness for Emerging Adults Book Release

Because of the current elongated road to adulthood, (see “Are We There Yet”) there is often a blending; some might say a clash, of the adolescent and emerging adult developmental milestones of finding identity and finding intimacy. George Vaillant, long-time director of the Harvard-Grant study, states that we must first master identity before finding true intimacy. Vaillant defines mastery of identity as achieving economic, social, and ideological independence from one’s parents.

Mindfulness for Emerging Adults: Finding balance, belonging, focus, and meaning in the digital age By Donna Torney MA, LMHC, RYT is a new Whole Person Associates book. Now available for order at WholePerson.com.

WPA Book Release: Mindfulness for Emerging Adults

Book Release

For Immediate Publication

Mindfulness for Emerging Adults Book ReleaseMindfulness for Emerging Adults

Finding balance, belonging, focus and meaning in the digital age.

By Donna Torney, MA, LMHC, RYT
Publisher: Whole Person Associates
Number of pages: 258
Publication Date: September, 2017
Contact Person: Peg Johnson, or Carlene Sippola: 800-247-6789

Duluth, MN – Whole Person Associates proudly announces the publication of Mindfulness for Emerging Adults by Donna Torney, MA, LMHC, RYT.

Mindfulness for Emerging Adults explores the task of becoming an adult in the twenty-first century. Advances in neuroscience underline the imperative to see mindfulness and other contemplative practices as indispensable life skills. These ancient and now rigorously researched practices are more important than ever in our age of accelerated change, media overload, and chronic busyness. The scientific community has now provided unrefuted evidence that these practices create positive change in the mind and body. By exploring and adopting mindfulness and other contemplative practices which the author calls Center Points, emerging adults can forge a path to find authentic identity and healthy personal and community connections, creating a good life in the digital age.

For the emerging adult (somewhere between 19 and 30) the mindfulness skills learned in this book will help take control of stress and manage difficult emotions. Donna leads the reader to become grounded in the present moment and experiencing more ease, contentment, and life satisfaction – a state that positive psychologists refer to as well-being. Throughout the book, highlighted sections entitled Voices of Emerging Adults tell the stories of typical young adult struggles. These stories are a composite of tales Donna hears in her private therapy practice, with details changed to protect privacy. The most common themes are highlighted, such as finding intimacy in a digital world, managing debt, finding a fruitful and worthwhile career path, managing difficult emotions, and practicing self-care. Mindfulness for Emerging Adults will inspire hope in young adults looking for the good life.

This book is written for parents, teachers, counselors or other mentors of young adults as well as the emerging adults themselves.  Highlighted sections entitled Thoughts for Mentors will guide mentors to better relate to young adult challenges. By listening to the voices of modern young adults and comparing their stories to the timeless developmental challenges of past generations, readers will be able to build greater understanding of the perennial journey to adulthood.

“Mindfulness for Emerging Adults is a must read that will capture your attention! This engaging guide is concise yet comprehensive, with intriguing and immediately applicable exercises. Donna Torney masterfully highlights how to weave the time tested, powerful, and evidence-based concepts of mindfulness into today’s rapidly changing, digitally-oriented world. She successfully translates sophisticated scientific constructs and contemplative practices into understandable terms and relevant tactics.”
-Karen Doll, PsyD

 

About the author:

Donna TorneyDonna Torney is a licensed psychotherapist based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She uses mindfulness-based cognitive therapy and other mindfulness informed tools to treat teens, emerging adults, and mature adults who are seeking to manage anxiety, depression, trauma, and interpersonal struggles. In addition to her formal training in psychological counseling, Donna has studied with many leaders in the fields of contemplative neuroscience, yoga therapy, and meditation. She is passionate about combining Western psychology with researched contemplative practices to offer a unique approach to therapy and wellness. Donna Torney is available for speaking engagements. She can be reached at donnatorney.com.

Wellness or Well-Being?

Should Wellness be replaced by Well-Being?

By Michael Arloski

Fly into wellnessThe term “Well-being” may have come along at just the right time. Public speakers and marketers are re-branding “wellness” as “well-being” by saying that well-being is more complete, more holistic. Well-being, they say, incorporates the whole person, their environment, their financial picture, their career, etc. On the one hand it’s too bad that we have to invent a new term to refresh our memory of what wellness really is. On the other, with the way that corporations and organizations have allowed their wellness programs and products to deteriorate into overly simplistic efforts, based on single-measurable-variable pieces of research, well-being may be the kick in the pants that reminds us about “Whole-Person Wellness”.

Twenty to forty-year veterans of the wellness and health promotion field hear speakers appear to create false distinctions between the terms well-being and wellness. And yet, are they indeed false distinctions?

Has the term wellness been worn out? It has certainly been misused and abused. Here in Northern Colorado a wellness center is probably a medical marijuana dispensary. Google the word and the number one listing on that search engine is always the Wellness brand of dog and cat food.

What may be more disturbing though, is how we have come to look at wellness in ways that jettison its original holistic meaning. In an effort to be more scientific and evidence-based, we have embraced research efforts to show the effectiveness of our approaches to wellness and health promotion. While this research is important and has yielded much of great value, too much of it has been focused on what could be called the measurement of a single variable. As we’ve tried to apply the scientific method to this cause we’ve oversimplified our approach far too often. When we want to study the health behavior of human populations the challenge is daunting. 

It’s easy to control extraneous variables in a “Skinner Box”*. Any social scientist will tell you
skinner-boxthat people are a lot more complicated. The result has been too many health behavior studies measuring one aspect of activity, one blood lipid level, one blood sugar level. While those little building blocks all help to assemble the scientific foundation we need, too much is concluded from them. In our online digital world a simple study with twenty subjects, run one time, has its results proclaimed as headline news.

Following the medical world, where the threat of litigation for malpractice hovers over every practice like a vulture, we have sought to provide only programming that is evidence-based. That means, as Dee Edington stated at the 2013 American College of Lifestyle Medicine Conference, “if you only do evidence-based [programs] you’ll never innovate!”  The temptation is to dumb-down our concept of wellness to just physical fitness and nutrition. The temptation is to be happy that we got someone to walk three times a week and call it good.

There Is Nothing New Under the Sun

 

Dusting off the yellowed pages of my edition of Donald Ardell’s High Level Wellness: An Alternative To Doctors, Drugs and Disease (1977) I found my long-time friend Don referred to his colleague and fellow wellness pioneer, Jack Travis, as Jack and he defined wellness: “Travis believes that wellness begins when an individual sees himself or herself as a growing, changing person. High level wellness means giving care to the physical self, using the mind constructively, channeling stress energies positively, expressing emotions effectively, becoming creatively involved with other, and staying in touch with the environment.” Ardell posed five dimensions of wellness,
Bill Hetler six http://www.nationalwellness.org/?page=Six_Dimensions), and Travis, including a number of psychological dimensions, built a model with twelve  dimensions. (http://www.wellpeople.com/Wellness_Dimensions.aspx)

Travis wellness wheel
Clearly Wellness has always been meant to be a holistic concept as I stated in 1994 in my article “The Ten Tenets of Wellness” (published in Wellness Management, the newsletter of The  National Wellness Association, which also can be found in Chapter Two in Wellness Coaching for Lasting Lifestyle Change, 2nd ed.

Indeed we’ve seen it all before. The term “Mindfulness” has been skillfully re-packaged by Jon Kabat-Zinn and others. Studying today’s version of mindfulness someone like me is transported back to about 1968 when I was in college and reading books like Bernard Gunther’s Sense Relaxation Below Your MindOf course everything we’re talking about here is based on practices that go back thousands of years in the traditions of meditation, Yoga, Tai Chi, and more. 

Yoga Pose

While in my doctoral program in the 1970’s, I was blessed with the opportunity to learn deeply about biofeedback and how to apply it in working with stress-related disorders. I specialized in that for many years as a psychologist and served as the President of The Ohio Society for Biofeedback and Behavioral Health. The beauty of the research done by biofeedback pioneers Elmer and Alice Greene (http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Biofeedback-Elmer-Freen/dp/0940267144 and http://www.consciousnessandbiofeedback.org) was to use recently developed technology to study the consciousness practices of Indian Yogis, monks, and others. By examining their subject’s brain waves and various physiological indicators they ended up validating the legitimacy of such practices. Thus we see that today’s mindfulness has its roots in research completed under other names as well.

Today’s dynamic “Positive Psychology” movement has invigorated the field of psychology and is providing the sound research evidence that is validating what the Humanistic Psychology folks have been saying since the 1950’s and 1960’s. The “Human Potential Movement” of the late 1960’s and the work of Abraham Maslow, Virginia Satir, Carl Rogers, Rolo May and many others, emphasized looking at human behavior from a positive growth perspective instead of the usual clinical/pathological perspective. Saying that Martin Seligman founded the Positive Psychology Movement may be accurate in recent history, but he did so standing on the shoulders of these earlier giants. Our field of coaching also built its self on these same shoulders and from its inception always took on a positive psychology, strengths-based approach to working with people.

A Return To Whole-Person Wellness. Looking at wellness programs merely as cost-containment strategies has caused us to develop a tunnel vision ROI-only view. Some companies today are spending more money on their incentives to get people to take a health-risk assessment, etc. than they are spending on their wellness programs! When we view employees only as statistical units that drive up healthcare costs, we down-size  or dumb-size our thinking.

The well-being approach would have us view employees as whole people who can contribute to the mission and purpose of our company and do so through creative, higher performance that happens when they are well in this holistic sense. The term to shift to is VOI (Value On Investment).

More Than Just Corporate Health Promotion. When we step outside of the corporate world we see wellness, and now well-being, at work in our healthcare settings, communities, schools, places of worship, and among groups and individuals who want to live their best life possible. We are realizing the powerful effect that connection and community provides for our
Kids eating greenshealth and well-being. We are seeing how having safe green spaces to walk, play and exercise increase the health of communities. Part of our approach to wellness/well-being is to step outside of a myopic corporate perspective and remember that not everyone works for a company with the benefits of a wellness program. Being inclusive of under-served populations in both rural and urban areas, Native American/First Nations Reservations, and others means maintaining this big-picture view of what wellness/well-being means.

If Well-Being helps us remember to work with the whole person and view them from a holistic perspective – great! If the term refreshes programs and generates engagement – wonderful! Bring on Well-Being while we remember what it really is – Whole Person Wellness.

* A Skinner Box is an apparatus for studying instrumental conditioning in animals (typically rats or pigeons) in which the animal is isolated and provided with a lever or switch that it learns to use to obtain a reward, such as a food pellet, or to avoid a punishment, such as an electric shock.

Dr. Arloski is the author of the seminal work Wellness Coaching for Lasting Lifestyle Change, 2nd Edition, and Your Journey to a Healthier Life.

Wellness Coaching for Lasting Lifestyle Change

Your Journey to a Healthier Life Cover

 

Wabi Sabi – The Power of Imperfection

Posted by: Julie Lusk

Wabi-Sabi is my new favorite concept.  It refers to the beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.Wabi is a Japanese word that connotes rustic simplicity and the understated elegance found in both natural and man-made objects.

Sabi is the beauty or serenity that comes with age, when the life of something and its impermanence are evidenced in its patina and wear as well as in any visible repairs.

What a wonderful concept that softens the sting of aging and the illusion most of us are under that demands that we always get it right. Not only does it soften it, it elevates imperfection to an art to be treasured.

So, the next time things don’t seem to go right, simply smile and say “Wabi-Sabi”.  It’s a real time-saver too.

Please give us examples of how you are celebrating the spirit of Wabi Sabi in your life.  Add your comments below.

What is mindfulness and why does it matter

Posted by: Julie Lusk

Let me share with you the best definition of mindfulness and its benefits that I’ve come across.   Diane Poole-Heller shared it with us at the recent NICABM conference.

Mindfulness is the moment to moment awareness of present time, inner and outer experience, with a non-judgmental and non-evaluative stance.

Research has shown that a mindfulness practice helps develop all 9 functions of the Pre-Frontal Cortex.

  1. ANS Regulation – Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Balance
  2. Attuned Communication – felt sense of other’s experience
  3. Regulation of emotions
  4. Response flexibility
  5. Empathy
  6. Insight – self awareness
  7. Fear extinction – GABA fibers to amygdala
  8. Intuition – deep knowing
  9. Morality.

Mindfulness

Here’s an entry from Whole Person author, Julie Lusk:
What is mindfulness and why does it matter
.