mindfulness

The Perfect Morning Routine

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By Alicia Cox, MA, AMFT

Mornings are not always easy. If you need to get up early for work or other commitments or were up late and did not get much sleep, mornings may be your worst enemy. Developing a healthy routine in the morning can help you feel ready for the day ahead, even when your body is telling you to go back to bed. Not everyone’s routine will look the same, but there are a few practices you should follow that will allow your body to wake up and be ready to tackle the day.

Practice Mindfulness
Incorporate at least one mindful activity into your routine each day. Mindfulness means bringing awareness to the present moment. Your focus should be centered on your thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and the surrounding environment through a nurturing lens. Doing one routine activity mindfully each morning can help shift your attention away from any ruminating thoughts and into the present moment. Being more present can help you increase positive emotions and reduce negative emotions. By focusing your attention on something positive, we are allowing ourselves to let go of stress and feel prepared to face the day.

To practice mindfulness, choose one activity and complete that activity mindfully. You could brush your teeth; take a shower or bath; or get dressed while focusing your full attention on that activity. Making mindfulness part of your daily routine will allow the skills associated with mindfulness to grow stronger so you can more easily access those skills when needed in other capacities.

Slow Down
Another important concept to include in your morning routine is to not multi-task. If you are like many people, your daily routine is already fast-paced and stressful. One way that I incorporate slowing down into my morning routine is by sitting down to eat my breakfast. I used to grab my breakfast and eat it on my way out the door, which caused me to feel stressed and rushed before even getting to work. By slowing down my morning activities like eating breakfast, I can better manage my mood and feel more in control of my emotions.

Give Gratitude
One of the most important things you can do for yourself each day is to practice gratitude. In the morning, before getting out of bed, list two to three things you are currently grateful for in your life. It may seem inauthentic at first, but there is science that supports the many positive benefits for your mind and body that practicing gratitude will bring. Incorporating a regular gratitude practice to your routine can significantly increase well-being, life satisfaction, quality of sleep, immune health, compassion, and kindness. The more regularly you give gratitude, the stronger gratitude will grow. Giving gratitude each morning will help you start the day with a positive mood, even when you may be dreading the day that lies ahead of you.


References

Mindfulness Defined. (n.d.) Retrieved July 31, 2019, from
https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/mindfulness/definition

Carpenter, D. (2019) The Science Behind Gratitude (and How It Can Change Your Life)
Retrieved from https://www.happify.com/hd/the-science-behind-gratitude/

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Hakomi: States of Consciousness and Establishing Mindfulness

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(Picture Credit: Benjavisa Ruangvaree)

By Paul Hubbard, MA, AMFT

States of Consciousness

In Hakomi psychotherapy, there are four states of consciousness:

  1. Ordinary consciousness, which includes open eyes with direct eye contact, a conversational tone and pace of speech, and low or controlled emotions.
  2. Mindfulness where eyes are generally closed; speech is slower, softer and quieter in general; breath is gentle; the body is still; and which includes all components of a light trance.
  3. The child state with childlike voice; a sense of wonder; simple sentence structure; youthful facial expressions and gestures; younger-looking body; shy in a childlike way.
  4. Riding the rapids wherein there is excitement; a high level of emotional expression; labored breathing; and wavelike body movements (Kurtz, 1990).

“In teaching and inviting clients to turn their awareness inside to notice whatever their present awareness is, we are deliberately encouraging our clients to enter a non-ordinary state of consciousness” (Barstow, 2015, p. 142).

Establishing Mindfulness

“Before attempting to evoke experiences in mindfulness, mindfulness itself must be established” (Kurtz, 1990, p. 85). Mindfulness is an open, vulnerable, non-ordinary state of consciousness where rapport and safety are already established. Before using techniques like probes or taking over, some things need to be in place including the relationship. All signs of cooperation, including cooperation of the unconscious, are there. Also, the clinician needs to conceptualize what would be a meaningful, interesting experience for the client.

Additionally, when the client is talking, it’s important to wait for the client to finish saying whatever they need to say. Even if the therapist has some valid ideas regarding what to do, it is nevertheless important to give the client time to finish. When the client is finished talking, she will then wait for the therapist to respond. When this happens, then the therapist can ask the client if she wants to try something that might be interesting like, for example, a probe (Kurtz, 1990).

The therapist doesn’t know how much the client needs to discuss her “story in ordinary consciousness” to feel safe, so a way of responding to a talkative client might be, “‘Why don’t we hang out with this sense of cautiousness, and maybe it will tell us more about itself?’” (Gaskin & Cole, 2015, p. 133). Another intervention might be to ask the client how she experiences the caution in her body.

Ron Kurtz found that nearly everyone he worked with could get into a state of mindfulness. Even the briefest moments of mindfulness can reveal significant, evoked experiences that can be utilized for accessing emotions, core beliefs or the child state (Kurtz, 1990).

If the therapist has listened to the client and has conceptualized some possible ways of responding then she can use a probe, a little experiment, an acknowledgment, or take something over for the client. These techniques can be combined in elegant ways. “Probes, acknowledging, contact statements, little experiments, and the various forms of taking over are the main interventions in Hakomi Therapy” (Kurtz, 1990, p. 90). These are the “core techniques,” just as mindfulness and nonviolence are the “central principles” (p. 90).

According to Kurtz, the closest precursor to probes would be Carl Jung’s use of “word association techniques” created by Wilhelm Wundt (p. 90).


References

Barstow, C. (2015). Ethics: right use of power. Weiss, G. Johanson & L. Monda (Eds.). Hakomi mindfulness-centered somatic psychotherapy: a comprehensive guide to theory and practice (pp. 139-148). New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

Gaskin, C.L. & Cole, D. (2015) Weiss, G. Johanson & L. Monda (Eds.). Hakomi mindfulness-centered somatic psychotherapy: a comprehensive guide to theory and practice (pp. 129-138). New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

Kurtz, R. S. (1990). Body-Centered Psychotherapy: The Hakomi Method. Mendocino, CA: Liferhythm Press.

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How Podcasts Boost Mental Health

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By Alicia Cox, MA, AMFT

I often recommend listening to podcasts to my clients as a tool to help distract their ruminating thoughts are podcasts. Podcasts are in the same realm as music in that it can take you out of your head and help you focus your thoughts on something outside of yourself. What podcasts do differently though is broaden your mind to new information and sometimes even help you feel less isolated in the world. Here are a few reasons why listening to podcasts can boost mental health:

1. It can relieve anxiety

We as humans are less likely to do an activity when it causes anxiety or fear. Thus, we might avoid the situation so that we do not have to experience discomfort and distress. A healthy distraction, such as a podcast, can actually be a way to gain an initial sense of relief from our anxiety and reduce the overall intensity of these symptoms. If something is bothering us, listening to an engaging podcast can be an adaptable way to handle a stressful moment so we can work through an uncomfortable situation. Focusing on something less anxiety-provoking can also give us a sense of control over our anxious thoughts so they do not take command over us.

2. It can increase mindfulness

Mindfulness is about is being in the moment and doing one thing at a time. While listening to an engaging podcast, we can practice mindfulness by solely focusing on the sounds and words being said. By doing this, we do not allow other thoughts or worries to come into our mind. Mindfully listening to a podcast can prevent thoughts from completely flooding and overwhelming us.

3. It creates empathy and connection 

Many people on podcasts disclose their own personal struggles, which can help a person feel less alone in their own personal struggles. In one podcast I listen to, the hosts frequently discuss their struggles with their mental health and the benefits they have received from therapy. They regularly receive feedback from listeners about how helpful it is to hear that another person is going through the same experience as themselves and how they appreciate their candor. There can be comfort in knowing you are not alone in managing your mental health.

There are currently over 750, 000 podcasts focused on many different issues. There are podcasts that are primarily focused on mental health and some that are focused on a specific subject and comedy. The following are some of the podcasts that I currently recommend to my clients:

The Mental Illness Happy Hour An in-depth conversation with a comedian and his guest with a focus on mental health, traumatic life experiences and negative thinking. Available on Spotify and iTunes.

Childish
Candid conversation between two comedians about the personal struggles that come with being a parent. The hosts also frequently discuss the personal struggles and triumphs that come with their own mental health journey. Available on Spotify and iTunes.

The Hilarious World of Depression 
Conversations with top comedians about their struggles with depression and anxiety in an attempt to end the stigma that surrounds these disorders. Available on Spotify and iTunes.

Note: Some of these podcasts use an explicit language so if this is a concern for you, look for the “E” symbol next to a podcast episode to see if it falls in this category.


References

Agarwal, P. (2018, June 18) Seven Podcasts for Mental Health and Well-Being. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/pragyaagarwaleurope/2018/06/18/seven-podcasts-for-mental-health/#1404e06b233f

Beck, A. (2017, August 3) The Use of Distraction in the Treatment of Anxiety. Retrieved from https://beckinstitute.org/the-use-of-distraction-in-the-treatment-of-anxiety/

Fitzsimmons, G. & Rosen, A. Childish Podcast. Podcast retrieved from http://childishpod.com/

Gilmartin, P. The Mental Illness Happy Hour. Podcast retrieved from https://mentalpod.com/
Linehan, M. M. (2015). DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets (2nd ed.). New York, NY: The Guilford Press.
Winn, R. (2019, June 1). 2019 Podcast Stats & Facts (New Research from June 2019). Podcast Insights. Retrieved from
https://www.podcastinsights.com/podcast-statistics/

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Five Ways to Get Motivated

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By Alicia Cox, MA, AMFT

Like many people these days, I can feel overwhelmed by all that needs to be completed on my “to-do list.” I have multiple lists of things I would like to accomplish in the long-term and the short-term. Sometimes the biggest hurdle is finding the motivation to accomplish all these goals. There are many things that may block our ability to find motivation such as anxiety or depression or just feeling overwhelmed by all of the work that will need to go into accomplishing a task.

There are two types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. With intrinsic motivation, individuals find motivation within themselves to accomplish a goal or task. Extrinsic motivation occurs when people are motivated by factors outside of themselves, through things such as rewards and punishments. Many of us are able to access our intrinsic motivation when we are accomplishing tasks that are part of a goal we have set for ourselves, but sometimes it can be useful to use extrinsic motivation to get us through a task.

Here are five ways to find the extrinsic motivation to complete a task even when you’re feeling less driven.

1. Give yourself a reward after you complete a task can be useful in these moments. It can help us find ways to get through an undesired task and be more motivated to finish it.

2. Break a large goal into smaller goals. When a person is starting to work toward a goal, it may seem overwhelming because there are so many components in completing the goal. When we break a goal into smaller goals, we are able to only focus our attention on one thing at a time, which can also allow us to feel less overwhelmed. This can also reduce any anxiety we may have about working on a task to completion.

3. Structure tasks so that you are performing the least desired tasks first and most desired tasks last In doing this, you are getting the tasks you are dreading most out of the way and using the desired task as a way to motivate you. You may like one of the tasks, so you are motivated to finish the other task in order to be given the chance to work on the desired task. In a way, you are using one of your tasks as a reward while still accomplishing all the goals on your to-do list.

4. Notice things that are blocking your ability to accomplish a task, such as depression or anxiety. If you are highly anxious or depressed at the moment you are trying to work on a task, you may not have access to the tools in your brain that will help you accomplish that task at the moment. Anxiety and depression can shut down areas of the brain that allow us to complete the task, therefore making it even more difficult to accomplish our goals.

5. Practice mindfulness exercises, such as focusing on your breath to regain some control over these thoughts and feelings. You may also want to increase the number of breaks between tasks in order to give yourself moments to calm down. Once you are feeling calmer, try to approach the task again.

Incorporating these ideas into your life can make your ability to access motivation stronger and easier over time. Try to use these strategies regularly to further grow this skill.


References

Meier, J. D. (March 9, 2016). These Are the 7 Habits of Highly Motivated People. Retrieved
from http://time.com/4245079/motivation-habit/

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Hakomi: The Essential Process

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(Picture Credit: Benjavisa Ruangvaree)

By Paul Hubbard, MA, AMFT

“The freedom to change, to change who you are, happens rarely, during very special moments. These moments are made possible, in part, by something about the therapist. It is this: the therapist is extremely sensitive to what is happening within the other’s experience, especially those signs that indicate where the process wants to go that it has never gone before. Not all processes are alive like that” (Kurtz, 1990, p. 73-74). Many are automatic, unconscious, habitual actions. Automatic, unconscious or habitual responses don’t contain anything new or lend themselves to insights, learning or growth. “For the client to make real choices, the therapist must be following, not leading” (p. 74).

Additionally, a client needs to be committed to the concept of self-study. They must be willing to let the therapist experiment, which can evoke some painful situations early on. The client may get very emotional without necessarily understanding why, until the moment an early memory resurfaces that goes with the emotion. This process requires courage in the client (Prengel, 2009).

“The combined use of the principles as guidelines, mindfulness as a therapeutic tool, and nonviolence as a basic emotional attitude of the therapist make Hakomi unique” (Kurtz, 1990, p. 67). “Within the frame of the process, we do three big things: we establish mindfulness; we evoke experiences of different kinds; and we process the experiences evoked in one of three different, state-specific ways” (p. 67). These three different states (of consciousness) include “strong emotions, the child state, and going for meaning” (p. 70).

“The essential process always depends on the therapist’s ability to create a special atmosphere for the client. The client must feel that the therapist is following what he or she, the client, is doing, needing or wanting. At whatever stage the process is, what happens next must be in line with what the client’s deepest self agrees to” (p. 74).

The process works through establishing mindfulness in the client. Mindfulness is a “relaxed, open, undefended, quiet” and special state, which involves noticing one’s own present-time experience (p. 68). Mindfulness includes observing one’s inner experience through a detached witness state of consciousness (Barstow & Johanson, 1999). In establishing mindfulness, feeling safe and a cooperative attitude are needed, especially the cooperation of the unconscious of the client (and of the clinician as well). Through mindfulness, one can access information related to core material more easily and faster than any other way (Kurtz, 1990).

Different Hakomi techniques that can evoke experiences in mindfulness include little experiments, all kinds of probes, taking over, and acknowledgments. Evoked experiences include thoughts, feelings (mild to overwhelming), sensations, tensions, impulses, memories, images and the inner child state (Kurtz, 1990).


References

Barstow, C. & Johanson, G. (1999). Front Page and Glossary of Hakomi Therapy Terms. Hakomi Forum, 13.

Kurtz, R. S. (1990). Body-Centered Psychotherapy: The Hakomi Method. Mendocino, CA: Liferhythm Press.

Prengel, S. (2009). Ron Kurtz on the Hakomi Method. Retrieved from https://www.psychotherapy.net/interview/ron-kurtz-hakomi-therapy

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Hakomi: The Principles, Part 2

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(Photo Credit: Benjavisa Ruangvaree)

By Paul Hubbard, MA, AMFT

Mind-Body Holism

While there are influences that the body has upon the mind, in Hakomi, the focus is more on how the mind influences the body, specifically how core beliefs and early memories affect someone somatically or physically (Kurtz, 1990).

In Hakomi, the focus is on the “mind-body interface” where beliefs, images, and emotions interact with bodily experiences and where these interactions take place in both directions (Kurtz 1990, p. 31; Myullerup-Brookhuis, 2008).

Mind and body are part of one system and interact at different levels. Hakomi looks at some ways that the body reveals one’s beliefs and emotions. Mind-body holism, which borrows from Reichian therapy and Bioenergetics, allows one to view “the body as an expression of mental life” by studying body posture, structure and behavior. The therapist tracks the client’s “bodily signs of inner experiences” (Kurtz, 1985, p. 4).

Unity

Psychotherapists work to get differing aspects of communicating, including family members, body and mind or various aspects of the mind. This requires some skill in order to coax the disowned aspects out of the unconscious and give them a voice with which to speak in a more open and direct way by creating a dialogue. When the dialogue can happen within a safe and nurturing context, then the opportunities for integration are that much better (Kurtz, 1990).

“In therapy, we attempt to establish and enhance communication between conscious and unconscious and between mind and body. In using mindfulness, we create opportunities which allow the unconscious a clear chance to express and be seen, heard and felt. In our focus on the mind-body interface, we work to create channels of communication between them. When we work with the child, we are often hearing from a part that has long been suppressed and silent. When the client comes to insight, meaning and self-acceptance, again it is one part understanding or accepting another” (Kurtz, 1990, p. 33).

In Hakomi, the principles are much more important than techniques. Techniques emerge spontaneously from knowing the principles. It’s better to have the feel of the work than to have the theory (Kurtz, 1990).

“No preferences. No fighting with what simply is. This Zen attitude is basic to both mindfulness and nonviolence.” When there are no preferences, there is no holding on (Kurtz, 1990, p. 37).


References

Kurtz, R. S. (1985). Foundations of Hakomi Therapy. Hakomi Forum, 2, 3-7.

Kurtz, R. S. (1990). Body-Centered Psychotherapy: The Hakomi Method. Mendocino, CA: Liferhythm Press.

Myullerup-Brookhuis, I. (2008). The Principles of Hakomi. Hakomi Forum, 19-21, 69-84.

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Mindfulness: A Brief History, Vision and Purpose

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(Cover Art from the album “The World Is Mind” by KRS-One)

By Jason Briggs, MA, LMFT

“When in our right mind, everything is viewed as an expression of love or a call for love. In other words, the way I am toward you, the way I behave toward you, the way I think about you, the way I feel about you, is not changed by what you do…love would be the content (a perception I have of you), nothing would change.” – Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D.

There is a place in you, where no change has occurred, nor will occur, and is completely at rest. This place is nowhere and everywhere because it isn’t seen with eyes but is perceived with the mind. Helen Keller, the blind and deaf author and political activist, points to the activity of the mind and wisely names it vision, stating, “It is a terrible thing to see and have no vision.” So, it is clear that Helen is speaking to what we perceive, and perception doesn’t require the eyes to see and the ears to hear. This begs the question, what is it that perceives? It is the mind, and here in the mind, we find a vision and a purpose for our existence and our service to others that allows for acceptance.

Extant philosophies on mindfulness point to how long we have been formally studying and writing about the subjective experience. We can trace the history of mindfulness through spiritual and religious texts, back to Pakistan, in the Vedic scriptures of Hinduism and later in Buddhism. However, many references to mindfulness exist in other spiritualities and religions as well. “…Some commentators argue that the history of mindfulness should not be reduced to Buddhism and Hinduism, as mindfulness also has roots in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (Trousselard et al., 2014). So, there is more to explore here but roughly the earliest Hindu texts put mindfulness in the realm of study at about 4500 BCE and in many other texts, on through to the present and through many philosophic branches.

The movement and practice of mindfulness can be defined as a purposive activity of will, to be present to and aware of what is perceived here and now. One can view therapy as a mindfulness practice of sorts, as research on healing and growth shows that clients unexpectedly at times address many different issues in therapy, that they never knew existed upon commencing therapy. As the client and therapist grow more mindful, awareness of what were once unconscious issues become conscious. Also, for many clients, they see the same old issues they have had and may begin to recognize them on ever-deepening levels. So when we talk about being mindful, we must include the idea of slowing down as a task in therapy, being present to what is here and now and being open to what is.

Being present means we are not only looking with our eyes or hearing with our ears but rather, we are also perceiving with our mind. Our purpose determines what we see. As Kenneth Wapnick instructs in the psychospiritual book, A Course in Miracles, “Do I want to shift my attention from the world out there, to go back in my mind…and look upon it with love, gentleness, and kindness or with anger, judgment, and hate…”.

So whatever decision we make, it is our purpose that determines what our vision reflects, a purpose we may or may not be aware of and one that reflects our right-minded perception or wrong-minded perception of how we perceive ourselves, others and our world. If we look with the right mind, what we see will reflect a vision that is mindfully aware of the fact we are joined with others, and we are accepting of this fact. If we decide a wrong-minded or mindless purpose, we will see separation as the only reality and suffer accordingly. Identification of our purpose is a passive act of will and shouldn’t be considered mutually exclusive to normal ways of acting in the world, as we may be busy working with others personally and professionally in many varied roles and we can do so mindfully or not, depending on our purpose.

If what we decide that our vision is of the mind and not of the eyes, then we have been given great freedom as decision-makers. Countless decisions must, of course, be made in the world related to our roles and responsibilities. However, on the level of the mind, there are two decisions possible. One reestablishes vision as an activity of the mind and the other blocks vision and produces conflict within. So if I want to engage my roles and responsibilities as a partner, husband, father, teacher, student, lover, I can do so mindlessly or mindfully. My peace or lack thereof will follow and if I choose to perceive mindlessly, fear will be engendered. Fear indicates a mindless decision and so we can decide to return to the mind, in a way that completely looks at and accepts a mindfulness stance.

As the Course in Miracles encourages, “When your peace is threatened or disturbed in any way, say to yourself:

‘I do not know what anything, including this (the mindless perception we are having, that induces fear), means.
And so I do not know how to respond to it.
And I will not use my own past learning as the light to guide me now.'”

Well, the obvious implication is that we will be willing to have a complete acceptance of what we are seeing and see that it is precisely our interpretation from the past that we are bringing to this experience and to then not decide to interpret it.

Let us take the great Bard of the West’s example when we forget to be mindful, remembering we can be like Shakespeare’s Cordelia who mindfully chided her father’s egoic false love in King Lear. Cordelia, turning away from her father’s demands to profess her love of him in public, pivots instead professing, “I will love and be silent.” The world is in the mind and when we decide to join it, ever so gradually, consciously, increasing our time we spend mindfully, purposely and with a shared vision, we can come to accept where we are right here and now. We can learn to shift our purpose, vision, and way of being from mindlessness to mindfulness.


References

Bibliography

Trousselard, M., Steiler, D., Claverie, D. Canini, F. (2014). The History of Mindfulness put to the test of current scientific data: Unresolved questions. Encephale-Revue de Psychiatrie Clinique Biologique et Therapetique, 40 (6), 474-480. doi: 10.1016/j.encep.2014.08.006

Mozilla Firefox 10-2-18

http://www.jcim.net/acim_us/TxtChap-14-7.php?dig=your+minds

https://www.sparknotes.com/nofear/shakespeare/lear/page_6/

https://www.brainyquote.com/authors/helen_keller

https://www.google.com/search?q=Hellne+Keller&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-b-1

Online Learning

Foundation for A Course In Miracles: Youtube Channel:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nad7AjRBY3M

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Hakomi: The Principles, Part 1

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(Photo Credit: Benjavisa Ruangvaree)

By Paul Hubbard, MA, AMFT

A new paradigm is happening in the world that emphasizes concepts like connection, inclusiveness, consciousness, body-mind interface, partnership and internal locus of control (Kurtz, 1990).

Truth can exist in multiple, different forms. There is value in being more inclusive and in considering multiple points of view and being open to the possibility that there can be more than one way to be right, in a given situation.

Ron Kurtz, the creator of Hakomi, said that he did not like the word “client,” and instead preferred to say “the people who come to me” (Kurtz, 1990, p. 18). He realized how important it was to shift one’s attitude from a desire “to make something happen” to being totally fine if nothing at all happened in therapy (p. 18). This means letting go of having an agenda. The client has a degree of power to direct their own therapy; therefore, it is important for the therapist to let go of control and any desire to take credit for the work taking place (Kurtz, 1990).

Organicity

Hakomi has several principles, which include organicity. Organicity happens when the therapist works cooperatively with the client’s natural, inherent movement towards wholeness. Organicity “places the locus of healing and control within the client and the client-therapist relationship. The client’s growth and unfolding, his or her answers or resolutions, completions and new directions, are all within” (Kurtz, 1990, p. 25). The therapist is simply present to help assist the client’s process (Hakomi Institute, 2015).

Organicity involves looking for and following natural processes. The therapist doesn’t impose a structure or agenda but rather looks for sources of growth and movement and supports them. This can mean, for example, giving a client time after an interaction to decide what interests and direction they want to pursue. In Hakomi, the therapist supports the client’s defense mechanisms, the ones a client uses to manage significant experiences. There are creative ways to work with the defenses that support growth (Kurtz, 1990).

When the various aspects of the subconscious are able to communicate with the conscious personality, then one can become more self-directed and self-correcting (Kurtz, 1990; Myullerup-Brookhuis, 2008).

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a principle and a state of consciousness that includes noticing how someone is organizing their experiences. Through mindfulness the therapist assists the client’s own inner wisdom “to create change through awareness rather than through effort” (Kurtz, 1990, p. 27). In therapy, one effect is to just stay with an experience longer and allow things to happen. People organize their perceptions and actions around core beliefs. A primary goal of therapy is to bring organizing material, including core beliefs, into conscious awareness (Kurtz, 1990).

Mindfulness involves being truly present with one’s present-time experience. One cannot be mindful about the past or future. We can only remember the past or anticipate the future. In being mindful, we choose to observe the present without interference. This implies having a receptive attitude which, even if it is only momentary, can provide valuable insights. As we bring our experiences into mindful awareness, we can begin to transcend them and to let them go (Kurtz, 1990; Myullerup-Brookhuis, 2008).

Nonviolence

“Violence in therapy is not just deliberate, physical harm”, violence in therapy can be subtle and not immediately apparent to those of us “raised with the models of authority common to our culture” (Kurtz, 1990, p. 29). For example, when someone assumes they know what is best for another then that is considered violence. This is the opposite of organicity.

Nonviolence involves going with the grain; that is what’s natural and what works. Going against the grain is what generates resistance. Nonviolence in therapy means accepting the client as they are, with their own story, ideas, desires, capacities and pace (Kurtz, 1990).

Ron Kurtz preferred to call defenses or defense mechanisms “managing experience” (p. 29). “In Hakomi, we do not oppose the client’s efforts to manage his or her experience. We support these in an effort to give the client a safe and controlled way to explore the experiences more deeply and completely. Any attempt to oppose such management meets with resistance anyway and the work becomes more effortful and more painful than it need be (Kurtz, 1990, p. 29). After all, one’s management style is their best effort to deal with pain and fear, an old and valuable tool.

By gaining the cooperation of the client’s unconscious and by supporting and following their own process and pace, we hold a space for any experiences that need to happen. By supporting, a client does the work she wants to do and she takes the credit for that work and deservedly so (Kurtz, 1990).


References

Hakomi Institute. (2015). The Hakomi Principles. Retrieved from http://hakomiinstitute.com/about/the-hakomi-method/the-hakomi-principles

Kurtz, R. S. (1990). Body-Centered Psychotherapy: The Hakomi Method. Mendocino, CA: Liferhythm Press.

Myullerup-Brookhuis, I. (2008). The Principles of Hakomi. Hakomi Forum, 19-21, 69-84.

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Summertime Sadness: Managing Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder

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(Photo Credit: Syda Productions)

By Alicia Cox, MA, AMFT

In the winter months, it is common for people to experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD). The disorder will come and go with the winter season, but can cause a lot of suffering and discomfort during those months. People can also experience SAD in the summer. It is not as common as winter SAD, but can be just as difficult to manage.

Symptoms of SAD include feeling depressed most of the day and almost every day, loss of interest in things you used to enjoy, low energy, sleep disruption, noticeable changes in appetite or weight, feeling agitated, difficulty concentrating, feeling hopeless or worthless, and frequent thoughts of suicide. These symptoms can be brought on because of the limited daylight available during these months. This can affect one’s natural sleep cycle and the chemistry in their brain. People usually stay inside more during these months because of harsher, cold weather, and can feel more isolated.

People can also experience similar symptoms in the summer. Summer SAD includes many of the same symptoms people experience in the winter months, such as sleep disruption, noticeable changes in appetite or weight, and increased anxiety. In some of the areas of the country that experience intense heat in the summer months, such as Sacramento, the onset of summer SAD can lead to staying indoors and keeping blinds closed to keep the heat out. Since it is so hot throughout the day, the ability to exercise outside is also affected, which can cause an increase in SAD symptoms, as well as symptoms related to anxiety, ADHD, and depression.

Here are some ways to manage SAD in the summer:

Talk to your mental health professional about the symptoms you are experiencing to see if it fits the description for a diagnosis of SAD. Your therapist can also help you work on some relaxation techniques that may help calm your mind from increased anxiety resulting from SAD.

You can also try exercising indoors at a gym or in your home with assistance of one of the many free smartphone and computer apps that coach you through workouts. It’s important to get at least 20-30 minutes of activity per day for better physical and mental health.

A person’s sleep cycle is also greatly affected by changes in the seasons. Make sure to stay away from substances, such as caffeine and alcohol, as they can disrupt sleep. Cut off use of these substances at least three hours before you plan to go to bed.

Finally, if you are experiencing symptoms related to changes in appetite and weight gain, practicing mindfulness when eating may be helpful. Mindful eating can help a person slow down and focus in the moment on the experience of eating food. Use your five senses as a guide when using this practice. This exercise will allow you to slow down and connect with your food so you are not eating mindlessly and possibly overeating. Also, try to follow the Dietary Guidelines for Americans when choosing your meals, which can be found at: https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/


References

Lewis, J. G. (2015 January 14) Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder: SAD in the Summer. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/brain-babble/201501/reverse-seasonal-affective-disorder-sad-in-the-summer

Mayo Clinic Staff. (25 October 2017). Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20364651

Robinson, L. Segal, J. & Smith, M. (March 2018). The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise, HelpGuide.org. Retrieved from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-living/the-mental-health-benefits-of-exercise.htm

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Three Ways to Improve Your Memory

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(Photo Credit: Radachynskyi Serhii)

By Alicia Cox, MA, AMFT

With all the stressors in life, it is common to sometimes have a difficult time remembering simple day-to-day details. There are many things that can affect memory, including sleep, stress and mood. People of all ages can experience difficulties in this area at various points in their life, but luckily, there are various skills that may help people improve their ability to retain and retrieve information.

Listed below are a few practices that can help improve your memory:

  1. Stop multitasking: This is something I tell my clients to do in order to keep their anxiety under control, but it can also help you stay more focused on a task, which can allow you to have a stronger memory of what you are working on. Being fully present during a task, physically and mentally, will improve your memory and overall mental well-being.
  2. Use memory tricks: There are several memory tricks that help your brain retrieve information readily.
    • Repeating what you hear out loud multiple times helps your brain record the memory, increasing the likelihood that you will remember it.
    • Associating new and old information can be helpful in allowing retrieval of information since it connects new information with something your brain is already familiar with. You can do this by creating a story around what you would like to remember.
    • Keeping a to-do list on your phone seems like a no-brainer, but it is important because humans are better at recognition than recalling information. Your list can either be handwritten or typed on your phone, as long as it is handy.
    • Breaking information up into smaller sections also helps when needing to store large quantities of facts and details. Sometimes looking at a large section of information can be overwhelming, so it is important to organize the information in a way that helps you remember it.
  3. Mindfulness: Practicing mindfulness skills have been shown to improve memory and allow people to focus on tasks without allowing their minds to wander. In one study, a group of students enrolled in a two-week mindfulness course was compared to a control group that did not take the class. The group that participated in the mindfulness class had higher scores in reading comprehension on the GRE and reported being less distracted during the exam than the other group.You can practice mindfulness skills with simple meditations in which you focus on your breath and scan your body to notice any sensations that arise. This is a practice of staying present and also emphasizes focused-attention.

References

“4 tricks to rev up you memory.” (July 2017). Harvard Health Publishing. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/aging/4-tricks-to-rev-up-your-memory

Mrazek, M. D., Franklin, M. S. Phillips, D. T., Baird, B. & Schooler, J. W. (March 28 2013). Mindfulness training improves working memory capacity and GRE performance while reducing mind wandering. Association for Psychological Sciences. 24(5), 776-781. DOI: 10.1177/0956797612459659

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