Tag Archives: comfort

Meditation in Motion

by Veronica Daub

It was difficult to watch the smiling faces of my friends spinning in and out of view, their limbs contorting and stretching in ways that resembled circus ballerinas. A plastic circle—a hula hoop; well, I thought those died out with elementary recess. But between laughter and silent moments of concentration, it was clear to see their minds were snagged on something deeper. I could see the spark resulting from accepting a challenge flare across their face; a look of accomplishment upon the landing, or the seamless retrieval of their plastic dance partner as it tried to roll away. Their facial expressions danced with the rest of their bodies, and with all the focus in the limbs, naturally the control over the face slackened—their blatant joy was genuine and not forced. As they twirled within their circles, I could tell I was invisible to them, sitting on the lawn while mindlessly tearing grass from the ground. I looked on with fascination; I couldn’t stay on the sidelines for long. Finally: “Hey, teach me something.”

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Three years later, my hoop and I have been through much reflection. People have called me “high-strung,” and I’ll admit I’ve always grown annoyed when attempting meditation. Sitting still doesn’t work for me—perhaps I need practice, but the combination of stilling my mind while allowing my body to convey the thoughts that flutter through my head has proven to be much more than useful. The hoop offers something much similar to meditation while including the action of my entire body. Whether it’s a distraction from any hurt or hardship that falls into my lap and wraps itself round my brain, a vehicle to release tension or stress from work or relationships, or a tool that magnifies a celebration—my hoop aligns me.

My hoop has become an extension of my limbs, and of course, it did not begin that way. Just like picking up a guitar for the first time, your fingers don’t know what to do, they’re awkward on the strings and it feels as though they’ll never feel at home on the neck of the instrument. The same is with the simple circle—it’s a foreign object that, just like a new friend, you need to grow familiar and comfortable with. When I first began, I would play for ten minutes before growing frustrated and tossing it aside. However, I always tell newcomers (because I try to spread the love of the circle further and further) the more you learn, the longer you’ll practice, because the more fun it will be. And then fun gives way to tools that benefit your headspace; within the circle is a place of comfort, a way to blur away and ease the frustrations of day to day life.

Plus, just wow, is it a great workout.

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There are many different ways to experience your hoop. On the wings of my favorite playlist, I drive myself into a dizzy stupor as my body tries to keep up with the tricks my mind tries to convey to my limbs, and I stumble around while panting through a huge grin that’s typical of a fiery session. But other times, my features are like still water, and my movements are slow and calculated. It’s during these times that the music is off, along with most of my senses. From the hoop to my fingertips, up my arm and to my shoulder blade, there is a direct connection to the stresses of my head which melt away as I let myself play with a toy like a child again. It’s necessary to embrace the child within us all, and the hoop has taught me to let the qualms of my life roll by like the hoop over my chest—contemplation rather than dwelling, and letting go rather than clenching on for dear life.

 

Neutral

By Gloria Smith Cisse, LPC, LMSW, CTRTC

Happiness is not simply the absence of sadness.   Happiness is much more.  It is a place of peace, comfort, quiet, beauty, and contentment.  It seems the thing we are always chasing is a kind of excitement that comes from getting something that we felt we have always wanted or needed.  This can be synonymous with drug addiction or thrill seeking.  I have never really enjoyed roller coasters and I don’t believe emotional roller coasters are any different.

A few days ago while I was in my car driving from one work site to the next, I thought about happiness.  Questions like: What is happiness for me?,  Am I happy right now?, and How would people know I am happy? danced around in my mind.  It occurred to me that I had not been “happy” in some time.  It also occurred to me that I was also not sad.  About a week before Thanksgiving 2015, I lost my mother.  I should be sad, right?

Some of my sisters and I communicate with each other on an almost daily basis. It feels like they are having a much harder time adjusting to life after our mother’s death than I am.  I was thinking that maybe there was something wrong with me because I was not as sad as they appeared to be.  I had made a choice to not depress.  I had not told them that, I don’t know if they would have understood.  I made the choice years ago because I had already spent too many years of my life being “clinically depressed.”

I have made a choice to get off the happiness – sadness roller coaster.  I can enjoy the happiness more because I experienced, understand, and appreciate the sadness.  I have learned to respect and give sadness its time because I know that it does not last forever.   As a matter of fact, I choose to not depress.

veronica-balanceSince that night alone in my car, I have decided that neutral, a place of balance, peace, contentment, and weightlessness, is a great place to be. It takes effort to remain balanced.  Anyone who has ever tried yoga will tell you, it’s hard!   I am not chasing happiness.  The mental picture I have is one coasting at my own pace and being surrounded by the things and people I enjoy.  This does not mean that I will avoid happiness.  It means that for now I will do my life and enjoy the peace that comes from simply doing my life.   I will choose the amount of time I spend sad.  I will not live on an emotional roller coaster.

I prefer to think of it as living like a “weeble wobble.”  Some of you may remember, “weebles; wobble but the don’t fall down.”  I can wobble from side to side but I will not remain in any one place too long,  except neutral…smile!

 

What does Fido do?

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

A recent New Yorker Magazine cartoon I read showed a psychiatrist asking his patient if he had tried taking long walks. Upon more careful inspection it is revealed that the psychiatristis a dog.

Perfect!

mansbestfriend0373668Although not an original thought, lets consider the lessons a dog can teach us about improved Mental Health & Happiness.

  1. Take long walks dailyAlthough daily exercise does not need to be only long walks, getting up, out and moving not only helps our physical health, it also lifts our spirits, shifts our focus and does wonders for improved Mental Health & Happiness
  2. When reunited with a loved one, always greet them Are you lucky enough to be living with a dog right now? If you are then you know the glory of coming home after an absence of short or long duration. The dog greets you with unbridled joy and delight. Now imagine regularly giving and receiving this same level of enthusiasm, love and affection when greeting and reuniting with all those you love. Just imagining this scene improves my level of Mental Health & Happiness. How about you?
  3. Get lots of rest Even if youre living with a puppy you know you dont have to ask your dog to nap, rest or sleep. It is true that some dogs need some help and encouragement to lay down and calm down when they are overly enthusiastic. But every dog will nap, sleep, and sometimes dream on the hardest floors, in the coldest drafts or most ragged make-shift dog beds. Dogs are champion sleepers, resters, and nappers. Following this lead can help our physical and mental health and happiness.
  4. Show compassion If you have ever lived with a dog you know their remarkable instinct to come near you when you are upset, distraught and sad. They seem to know that their very presence, that might also include a full body leaning into you or putting their head on your knee or in your lap, will help to offer you some comfort and compassion that you sorely need. I want to be able to do the same with the people in my life who are experiencing unhappiness and sadness. Just as a dog knows the best therapy at this time is being close and silent, I want to be the same.
  5. Listen more than speak Even if the dog you hang around a lot is a yippy dog, I bet she listens more than she barks. This is a lesson Im concentrating on learning and incorporating into my life. I am a talker. But just as a yippy dog can become tedious, I know my talking can rub people this same, wrong way. My Mental Health & Happiness will improve when I can listen more than I talk.
  6. Love unconditionally Has your dog every told you that she loves you but just wishes you would stop clapping your hands when you call her or start feeding her the better, more expensive dog food? Have you ever told your dog that you would love him more if only he were a little softer or more obedient? My experience is that the closest most human beings will ever get to unconditional love is in their relationship with a dog. Dogs dont ask us why we didnt call when we promised we would. Dogs dont accuse us of loving the cat more than them. Dogs dont hold a grudge against us for skipping todays long walk because of rain. Dogs simply love and adore us, are happy when we play catch with them, and will happily sleep at our feet or on the couch if we will let them. I want to learn to give and receive love as unconditionally as a dog. I know this would be great for my Mental Health & Happiness and my relationships.

What Mental Health & Happiness lessons are you learning from your dog or cat? Please share. . .

Kindness

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

Unexpected kindness is the most powerful, least costly, and most under-rated agent of human change; kindness that catches us by surprise bringing out the best in our natures.                                                                                                                        Bob Kerry

A brilliant friend of mine who is the mother of an amazing 6-year old daughter has started a family tradition. Every December they, along with 7 other families, put together and give away blessing bags for the homeless. Here is how she describes it

“Every family brings 30 items.  Then we have a party. We lay it all out and everyone makes their bags from the items everyone bought. It’s fun and the kids get to talk to each other about what it was like when they got to hand out bags. I also read two books to them about being homeless. It was a great way to explain homelessness to our young children. We talk about how some problems we can’t solve but we can still make a difference in the lives of some people who are struggling.  You can make a difference no matter your age or size.

canstockphoto0190342“Here in Rhode Island we see a a lot of homeless people at intersections who are holding signs. Before we started this project our kids would ask about these folks and of course were upset to learn some people don’t have homes. This is especially distressing during our cold winters. Our children would ask a lot of good questions about it. We parents felt it was important to help our children feel more empowered to help.

“I saw a pin on Pinterest about this project so organized the 7 families to make the blessing bags. One of the children suggested we add a little piece of art so people would have something beautiful to look at. All the children liked this idea. It feels more personal for the kids to add something they made.

“This project is something I am passionate about. In college I worked in a homeless shelter doing overnights. I can feel overwhelmed and hopeless about the problem of homelessness. But handing out these blessing bags, little gifts of comfort, also helps me!”

Here is what they put in their bags:

Hand warmers, socks, high protein snacks (larabars, peanut butter and cracker packs, beef jerky or tuna bags) fruit cups, toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss donated from dental professionals, leftover Halloween candy from the children, a picture drawn by a child, and printed brochures of the local shelters listed, as well as places to get hot meals, and food pantries. We also make a few bags that have sanitary pads and tampons for the women we see.

Caring for others is consistently listed as a practice to improve Mental Health & Happiness. Perhaps this mother and daughter team can inspire your own act of kindness that will not only help the life of someone else, it will also improve your own Mental Health & Happiness.*

*Thank you Amanda and Willow Campbell for telling me your story and inspiring this blog.

Happy Mother’s Day to all you Moms

By Dr. Ken Larsen

momThis day has value to help us remember the person who brought us into being in her body and then gave us to the world.  Our mothers were there to hold us, to feed us, to care for us with all our basic needs.  Hers was the voice of comfort in distress, soothing, softening the harsh world that was so new to us.

She was a sturdy support as we grew and learned to feed ourselves, to walk, to play  and to rejoice in the freedom of not needing diapers.

As we grew we didn’t need her quite so much.  Yet even as we moved on in life, we were still connected.

It’s sometimes hard to understand why Mom is still interested in us, is still concerned for our well being, still wants to be part of the life that she brought intmom2o the world.

“The changes that happen in the mommy brain are the most profound and permanent of a woman’s life.  For as long as her child is living under her roof, her GPS system of brain circuits will be dedicated to tracking that beloved child.  Long after the grown baby leaves the nest, the tracking device continues to work.  Perhaps this is why so many mothers experience intense grief and panic when they lose day-to-day contact with the person their brain tells them is an extension of their own reality.”1

Marty Robbins wrote the song “You gave me a mountain.”  One of the lines goes: “My mother died giving me life.”  In a way this is true for all mothers.  They die to who they were in their own individual life to become a mother, a giver of life and love and support to those she has borne.

Thanks, Mom.

1The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine M.D.