July’s Mindfulness Exercise

Mindfulness involves observing and accepting the things around and within us in the present moment, without judgment.  In therapy, Johanna may involve mindfulness skills to build awareness of various issues and to develop coping strategies to reach optimal wellness.   The exercise below is not individualized to your needs as it may be in therapy, but is rather intended as a general exercise that you may find useful.

July’s Mindfulness Exercise:

Last month, we brought awareness to our thoughts. This month, we bring awareness to our emotions!

How aware are you of your emotions? Take a deep breath in, and exhale out slowly. Keep in mind the statement “as long as you are breathing, there is more that’s right with you than wrong with you.” Similarly, there are no wrong emotions – you get to have them all.

Notice what you are experiencing emotionally in this moment. Name the emotion or emotions to yourself. Maybe even write it down on a piece of paper.

Engage in this emotion-naming three times throughout your day today. Notice the fluctuations you experience in emotion and intensity. Notice what you do with the emotion. Is it healthy for you?

 

Today’s exercise is intended to increase your emotional awareness, both regarding what you are experiencing emotionally as well as what you do with it. As always, if this feels overwhelming, please call Johanna to set up an appointment.

 

NOTE: This is not intended to replace therapy.  Please contact Johanna at (585)406-3012 if you are interested in engaging in counseling for optimal wellness.

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June’s Mindfulness Exercise

Mindfulness involves observing and accepting the things around and within us in the present moment, without judgment.  In therapy, Johanna may involve mindfulness skills to build awareness of various issues and to develop coping strategies to reach optimal wellness.   The exercise below is not individualized to your needs as it may be in therapy, but is rather intended as a general exercise that you may find useful.

June’s Mindfulness Exercise:

This month, we are going to bring our awareness to the endcaps of the day. Pick either the morning or the evening, and every day write down the first thoughts that pop into your head in the morning, or the last thoughts that run through your mind at the end of the day.

We can’t control what first pops into the mind, but we can control what we do with it and the habits we shape around our thoughts. After tracking your thoughts for several days, notice if there are patterns to your thinking. Those first or last thoughts of the day – are they what you’d want to have in your mind?

If they are, carry on. If they are not, take a moment to reflect on what kinds of thoughts you would like to have at the start or end of your day. Write down on a piece of paper or post-it what you’d like them to be, and place them next to your bed. Every day, before you close your eyes to end the day (or get out of bed to start the day), review the piece of paper.

In doing so, you are bringing mindfulness to your thoughts and training your mind to take the thought paths you would most prefer!

 

NOTE: This is not intended to replace therapy.  Please contact Johanna at (585)406-3012 if you are interested in engaging in counseling for optimal wellness.

Awkward and Strong

At a yoga class recently, I was reminded in the midst of a holding a very difficult pose that what we need we carry with us. The instructor went on to discuss how we have the ability to cope with difficult situations. Deep stuff, right?

This doesn’t mean I held the pose. I certainly didn’t look the picture of the strength and grace I aspire to be. I was awkward, and shaky, and exited out of the pose before the teacher told me to do so. I may have even rolled my eyes a bit at the instructor’s words.

But it made me think. Not necessarily to agree with the instructor about what we carry internally, and whether it is enough. No, it made me think about how the things we need to grow come from within us, instead of from the material things around us.

I realized that my physical practice of yoga depended on me. Not the room I was in, not the clothes I was wearing, or even the yoga mat beneath my feet. My awkward, strong engagement in physical movement using my own body… that depended on me.

The instructor was right. I didn’t have the tools to bend and contort into a crazy pose, but I did have the ability to engage my body in the practice and own my movements. I didn’t need anything but myself to do yoga.

I often say in counseling sessions that you are the only one who is in your body and your mind 24/7. (It’s a great thing – and sometimes a very difficult thing!). That self is all you need to challenge yourself to grow.

And in my office, all we really need is you (the person who is in your body and your mind), and me (the person who will sit with you). Counseling depends on the relationship between myself and you, the client.

It is nice to have chairs to sit in, pictures to look at, and a window to let the light in; but the real work comes from the connection in the therapeutic relationship. That’s all we really need. It may be awkward at times, it may be shaky, and it will be strong. The real work comes from the changing perspective you develop for yourself and take out of the office with you.

What we need to grow we carry within us.

In yoga, the things we need come from physical movement. In counseling, it comes from the counseling relationship. In both cases it is the internal parts of self and relationship that lead to growth.

Good-bye snow bank, Hello recycling bin

After over a month, my recycling bin has emerged from the midst of a snow bank. Sometime in February, I’d set the recycling bin by the curb and a snowstorm buried it overnight. Just this week, the snow melted enough for my blue bin to reappear, equally full of snow as recyclables. I left the bin out by the curb. It was finally ready to be emptied.

When it comes time for spring, I think we’re all a bit like that recycling bin. We may have things we’ve been holding onto that have no more use; we may have been buried (or been hiding!) in a snow bank; we may be emerging from a long winter, standing alone on the grass where there used to be snow.

A new season is heading towards us – spring. With change comes stress, and new growth, and opportunity.

What do you need to empty from your recycling bin? What are your hopes for spring? What might you still be holding onto? What do you need help sorting through?

As always, I’m a phone call away if you find you need another perspective as you dive into your own emotional spring cleaning – (585)406-3012.

March’s Mindfulness Exercise

Mindfulness involves observing and accepting the things around and within us in the present moment, without judgment.  In therapy, Johanna may involve mindfulness skills to build awareness of various issues and to develop coping strategies to reach optimal wellness.   The exercise below is not individualized to your needs as it may be in therapy, but is rather intended as a general exercise that you may find useful.

March’s Mindfulness Exercise:

This month, we are going to use our mindfulness exercise to explore the idea of acceptance. I nearly wrote the word “discomfort” there. We think of acceptance of warm and fuzzy, but a lot of times acceptance is really, really uncomfortable. Today we will do a short breathing exercise while practicing a non-judgmental, accepting attitude.

Take a breath in, and exhale at your regular breathing pace. Without changing it or judging it, notice the pace of your breathing. Pay attention to the feeling of air passing through either your nose or your mouth. Is it warm or cool? Are you breathing into your chest or deeper into your belly? Keep in mind the statement that “as long as you are breathing, there’s more that’s right with you than wrong with you.” Notice what thoughts come up for you. Are you judging your breath? If so, just notice that too. Notice what emotions you are holding. Notice how you feel physically, and where you might be holding tension.

What is it like to accept your breath? Without trying to change or judge it?

What would it be like to accept other things in your life in this way?

It may not be warm and fuzzy.

It might be healthy.

Take one more minute to notice how you feel after completing this exercise, and what (if anything) you might like to do differently as you go about the rest of your day.

 

NOTE: This is not intended to replace therapy.  Please contact Johanna at (585)406-3012 if you are interested in engaging in counseling for optimal wellness.

December’s Mindfulness Exercise

Mindfulness involves observing and accepting the things around and within us in the present moment, without judgment.  In therapy, Johanna may involve mindfulness skills to build awareness of various issues and to develop coping strategies to reach optimal wellness.   The exercise below is not individualized to your needs as it may be in therapy, but is rather intended as a general exercise that you may find useful.

December’s Mindfulness Exercise:

The holidays are here. This can mean more family gatherings, parties, and other get-togethers outside the norm of our usual day-to-day. It also can mean more stress.

With stress and social interactions in mind, this month’s mindfulness exercise is focused on interpersonal interactions.

Over the course of the next week, pick several different social situations (such as at a party, at home, or at work) to try the following exercise:

In conversation, notice how your emotions fluctuate. Throughout the course of a conversation, check in with yourself. Beginning with the very first “hello,” notice what you are feeling emotionally and your overall level of distress. Before you respond to the other person (or people) in the conversation, wait for one breath – or even a half a breath – to notice what you are experiencing emotionally. When the conversation is ending, take a few deep breaths to notice what you are feeling and your overall level of distress.

How do your emotions fluctuate in conversation? Does this change based on the context, the time of day, or the person with whom you are talking?

Notice what you experience and your overall observances. If you are an active client, please feel free to share your experience of this exercise in your next session.

NOTE: This is not intended to replace therapy.  Please contact Johanna at (585)406-3012 if you are interested in engaging in counseling for optimal wellness.

November’s Mindfulness Exercise

Mindfulness involves observing and accepting the things around and within us in the present moment, without judgment.  In therapy, Johanna may involve mindfulness skills to build awareness of various issues and to develop coping strategies to reach optimal wellness.   The exercise below is not individualized to your needs as it may be in therapy, but is rather intended as a general exercise that you may find useful.

November’s Mindfulness Exercise:

 

The holidays are coming and with them, many different stressors. Holiday stress can include worries about finances, so for this month’s mindfulness exercise we will be noticing financial stress.

Begin with your breathing, keeping in mind that as long as you are breathing, there is more that’s right with you than wrong with you. Check in with how you are feeling physically and emotionally, and what thoughts are on your mind.

Draw your thoughts to the topic of finances. Without diving into any specific thoughts, notice your responses. What thoughts come to mind? What is your level of distress, 1 through 10 (if 10 is panic)? What emotions come up for you? How do you feel physically at this moment?

Without judging your responses or trying to change them, continue to observe the various aspects of your conscious awareness. If you notice your stress level rise, return to your breathing.

Continue to engage in this exercise for a few minutes, and then take a moment to write down the responses you noticed mentally, physically, and emotionally. Reflect on these responses. Is there a way you would like to respond differently, or a strategy you’d like to employ to better manage stress?

NOTE: This is not intended to replace therapy.  Please contact Johanna at (585)406-3012 if you are interested in engaging in counseling for optimal wellness.