Articles and Commentary from our Alexandria, VA Professionals
"What? Me, Meditate?"- Jane Carey, Licensed Clinical Social Worker
For most, the thought of meditating is met with... "Not for me!" Even long term meditators have that response on any given day. It is hard...make no mistake...but far from impossible. The multiple benefits are deep, long lasting and well worth the inevitable struggle. Some of the well researched benefits include lowered anxiety and blood pressure, improved levels of attention and concentration, and overall increased resilience to stress.
To simply sit, breathe and observe your thoughts can be challenging. It can also be very relaxing. Try breathing in through the nose followed by long slow exhalations out the mouth or nose...allowing yourself time to simply BE and not do. Not holding a breath, not holding a thought. Allowing the constant mind chatter to pass by. As the mind wanders, bring it in back to the breath. Let those thoughts pass you by one more time...and again and again.
Continue to come back to the peaceful sound of the breath. Your breath that is always there, ever present. And now, you too...present and in the moment. No place to go, nothing to do but BE. Take a few minutes and give it a try. Why not consider meditating just before you check your phone. See how it might alter your stimulus/response reaction. Then smile and appreciate the gift you gave yourself.
Studies on Happiness - Carol Frick, LCSW
Have you ever wondered what makes a good life? Robert Waldinger, the fourth director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, a 75-year study on happiness, talks about the results of that study in a Ted Talk entitled "What Makes A Good Life? Lessons from the Longest Study on Happiness." The answer is not wealth, nor is it fame. To find the answer, google Ted Talks and find Robert Waldinger's entry. The results are enlightening.
The Best Book about Marriage or What to Do Before Your First Appointment,-Rebecca Hecht-Lewis, PhD
When couples call to set up a marital counseling appointment things likely have been getting tough at home. Waiting for the first session can seem difficult because couples run out of emotional energy. They are worn out from trying to interact with one and other in repetitively negative ways. A frequent question after the appointment date has been set is, “What can we do between now and then?” The answer, read John Gottman’s The 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work.
If you aren’t a big reader, take a look at YouTube video links below from the Gottman Institute about strategies for solving typical marital problems. A short synopsis of The 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work has also been written by Heidi Stevens at the Chicago Tribune. She reminds us that if you add up the strategies suggested by Gottman’s research, the amount of time you need to commit to change your marriage is about 6 hours a week. So, if you want to do your homework before coming to couples therapy, make that 6 hour weekly commitment. Read about the healthy marriage “do’s” : take turns, express affection, say hello and goodbye, say you understand, and schedule a date. Work to eliminate the divorce-predicting “don’ts”: stop the verbal finger-pointing, get rid of words like “never” and “always”, and cut both the criticism and the silent treatment. Great relationships begin with respect and admiration. Start acting like a good friend and your marriage will change even before your first appointment!
Gottman Institute video links: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_Vz_Cbsu3o How to improve marriage in 30 seconds/ Dr. John Gottman
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IYIzzs6Gv9A Diffusing Difficult conversations
Synopsis and Review of John Gottman's The 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work, Heidi Stevens. Chicago Tribune 6/26/2015http://article.wn.com/view/201...
Exercise and Your Mental Health,- Rebecca Hecht-Lewis, PhD
Talk therapy is not magic. Since your mental health is impacted by your physical health, it is likely that, along with your MD, your therapist will nag about exercise. Aerobic exercise has proved to be an effective anti-depressant. It can reduce anger, confusion, fatigue and tension. Walking has been shown to have statistically significant effects on lowering blood pressure, reducing cholesterol levels and body mass, and reducing depression while improving overall physical functioning. Walking can also improve the quality of sleep in patients with Anxiety. If you want to take it even slower, Tai Chi has been shown to reduce the course of cognitive aging. Whatever form of exercise you choose, it is likely to make you feel better. There is always time for a walk. What are you waiting for?
Is yoga for me? Jane Carey -MSW
Is yoga for me? A frequently asked and reasonable question. As a long time practitioner and teacher I always answer with a resounding yes. What matters most is the type of yoga you choose as well as the ability of the instructor to modify. Once you overcome your reluctance and fear...mostly rooted in..."I’m not flexible enough"... you realize, you don't have to be. That's the point of yoga...to help you become more flexible, strong and balanced. The primary focus is then on a continued practice and breathing through the poses, your fears and misgivings...just like in life. We benefit most when we stay present. Yoga offers so many benefits, head, heart, a sense of well being, improved stability and balance, better sleep and more energy. Shall I go on? Go with a friend...that can help ease anxieties. Be open to what your body may or may not allow you to do. Listen to your body...as in, that's too much or maybe I could push just a micro move further.For most people the first experience draws them back to learn more. It is not competitive, nor does it require you to fold like a pretzel. The only real requirement is to breathe, work at staying present and see how your body and mind respond to stretching and moving in ways that may be new to you. If you listen to your body above and beyond instructions, you will not get hurt. Be patient with yourself and this body that we ask so much of. Let your mind be free from strong opinions and judgments just for that hour. Let the words “now” and “possibility” be your mantras. So take your mat and be ready for a gift to unfold in and around you in new and amazing ways.Namaste.
Jane Carey, LCSW, RYT
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Are you treating yourself as well as you would your pet?
One of the most frequent questions I ask clients in therapy is, “Are you treating yourself as well as you would your pet? “ The American Animal Hospital Association reminds us, in their publication Canine Life Stages Guidelines, that caring for a healthy dog requires a number of things. These include good nutrition and a consistent food/water schedule, adequate exercise (at least 2 walks each day), gentle handling, vaccinations, a yearly physical exam, frequent dental exams, enrichment and mental stimulation, novelty, and adequate socialization. A good pet owner might jump through hoops to make sure their dog has all of these things. Be a good care-taker of yourself if you are hoping for those tail wagging feelings. Rebecca Hecht-Lewis, PhD. Clinical Psychologist
Breathe First. Talk Later
Mindfulness has become a health buzzword. Eating mindfully helps us lose weight. Breathing mindfully reduces anxiety. Improving mindful communication is an essential goal in couples therapy. Taking a moment during conversations to thoughtfully speak, or silently listen, can make the difference between connection and discord. A great rubric for healthy communication involves taking time to remind yourself that the primary goal of talking to your partner is to strengthen that “we” connection. Pause before you speak. Ask yourself:
1. Is what I am saying true?
2. Is it necessary to say it?
3. Can I say it in a kind way?
4. Finally, is making this statement better than simply taking a breath and not speaking?
Or, as Buddha is often quoted, does my communication “improve upon the silence”? Productive conversation is about listening, respectfully reflecting back what you hear, and remembering that sometimes a calm silence can be golden.
Rebecca Hecht-Lewis, PhD. Clinical Psychologist