How To Do Mindfulness

Have you been hearing a lot about Mindfulness lately?

It’s gaining in popularity as a way to reduce stress and anxiety and increase happiness.

Wellness Counseling with Di PhilippiMindfulness is a way of being. It involves focus and attention on only what is happening in the here and now. It’s about attentive awareness of the present moment without judgement.

You’d be surprised how many moments of your day go by WITHOUT your conscious attention to the here and now.

Ever had a time when you were driving and suddenly realized you missed or almost missed a turn? Or that you were further along the road than you realized because you were driving on auto-pilot? At times like that, the body and the mind are doing two different things. Mindless.

I like to think of Mindfulness as your Mind and Body in same place at same time doing the same thing. Your body can only be in the here and now; but your mind can be all over the place.

How to do it?

People often ask me how to “do Mindfulness”… is it meditation or what?

While there are mindfulness meditations you can do, it is a way of being so you do not need to meditate to be mindful. You can start with mindful awareness of your sensory experiences. You can use your senses of: Sight, Hearing, Taste, Smell, Touch.

Here are just a few strategies for beginners to get an experience of mindfulness:

Eat a Raisin

Here is one simple way to experience and practice mindfulness using your mouth and your sense of taste:

Eat one raisin…mindfully. Take 4 minutes to pick up, look at, eat, taste and mindfully experience that raisin. Try to chew it at least 250 times! It is possible!

Notice everything you can about that raisin-eating experience… taste, texture, saliva production, how your tongue and teeth move, how you swallow, etc.

Mindful Listening

1. Sit still and bring your attention to what you can hear right now. You’ll probably notice that one noise jumps out at you – perhaps the loudest or most annoying.

2. Now, listen hard for what else you can hear at the same time. Closing your eyes can help. Do your best to divide your attention equally between every noise that you can hear. This will probably be challenging at first.

3. Notice when one particular sound has taken up your full attention, or when your mind simply wanders. Bring your attention back to all the noises and focus again on dividing your attention among all of them equally.

Do this for a few minutes and then notice how you feel compared to when you started.

Sitting Mindfulness Meditation

Science shows mindfulness and meditation help reduce anxiety. There are many, many techniques. This one is from Dr. Mark Hyman.

Instructions:

Meditating - Di Philippi, Holistic Anxiety Therapist, Wellness Counseling Milwaukee

Be aware of your posture!

Sit in a comfortable position. Try to sit in the same place each day. Avoid positions that you might fall asleep in.

a. The back is long and supports itself.

b. Shoulders are relaxed downward, the neck is long, and the chin is pointing neither up nor down.

c. The face is relaxed.

Begin to breathe (preferably through the nostrils). Feel the belly rise, the ribs expand, and the slight movement in the collarbones and shoulders as the breath moves upward. Feel the exhalation.

Focus on one aspect of the breath.

a. The movement of air in and out of the nostrils.

b. Or the lifting and falling of the belly.

Watch that one aspect of the breath.

a. When the mind wanders, gently bring it back to the breath and the aspect you have chosen to watch.

b. Do this as many times as you need to.

c. There is no such thing as a good or bad meditation. (Good and bad are judgments, events in the mind – just note them and go back to the breathing.)

Start with 5–10 minutes and then increase the time until you can sit for 30 minutes.

OCD Interview

I was recently interviewed by a local university for an article about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). This Q&A explains the basics of OCD and the effective, non-medication treatment that works for OCD.

Question 1: What is the biggest misconception you’ve heard and/or seen about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

Misconception #1: Many people believe OCD has to include compulsive behaviors like hand-washing or excessive cleaning. Truth be told, I actually see more OCD in the form of obsessive and intrusive thoughts than I do with the classic compulsive behaviors.

Misconception #2: There’s a misconception that people must live with anxiety their whole lives, or that they must take medication for it for their whole lives. That is not true! [READ MORE HERE]. The neural pathways in the brain which create anxiety and obsessive thinking can be changed. Thus, the root cause of anxiety can be addressed and resolved.

The answer: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can provide long-term, preventative relief from anxiety/OCD (see Question 6 below).

Question 2: From your experience with treating OCD, what seems to be the biggest trigger for the people who suffer?

OCD can look very different for different people so it is difficult to generalize. People with OCD suffer from repetitive (and often disturbing) thoughts that they can’t seem to get out of their heads – these are Obsessions. These thoughts, and the inability to “let it go,” can cause a lot of anxiety.

Sometimes that anxiety creates an urge for people to repeatedly perform certain behaviors or routines – these are Compulsions. The urge to do the behaviors is an attempt to try to ease their anxiety.

Some people with OCD have obsessions only, while others have both obsessions and compulsive behaviors.

Most people who have OCD are aware that their obsessions and compulsions are irrational, yet they feel powerless to stop them which actually increases anxiety.

Common obsessive thoughts include:

• fear of a detrimental error by overlooking something
• worry about things being in proper order
• fear of harming someone
• feeling over-responsible for others
• worries about germs or illness

Common compulsive behaviors include:

• hand-washing
• counting
• arranging things
• cleaning
• checking and re-checking things (like did I forget anything?)

Question 3: OCD is often labeled a “mental illness.” Do you agree with this label?

I hate the label “mental illness” because some people attach a stigma to it…and that causes people to avoid getting treatment that could lead them to a happier life. At least 40 million American adults suffer from anxiety, but only about one-third of those seek help, even though anxiety is highly treatable without medication.

Like other types of anxiety, OCD involves what I call “a thinking problem” or “anxiety thinking.” There is a problem with the thinking process and in that respect it could be considered mental as opposed to physical illness.

The great news is that thinking problems can be corrected! Neuroscience research shows that the brain can reconfigure itself and learn new and more effective ways of thinking when trained to do so.

Question 4: Do you believe that people are born with OCD, or is it something that develops over time?

Research supports the understanding that OCD involves problems with the brain circuitry that causes anxiety thinking. No one knows for sure all the factors that could be involved in development of anxiety/OCD. Possible factors include perhaps genetic predisposition, perhaps learned behavior when kids grow up in a family where adults have anxiety, perhaps an illness, or even ordinary life stressors.

Question 5: How are patients diagnosed?

During an assessment, I look at whether a person has obsessions and/or compulsions, but the biggest factor in diagnosis is whether these thinking problems and behaviors cause a real problem in the person’s life.

I always say there’s not a problem unless there’s a problem. I’m looking to see whether the thoughts and/or behaviors are creating a problem with the person’s daily routine, job, school, relationships, social activities, or other activities the person values.

Question 6: What types of treatments are available to patients who suffer from OCD? Is there one particular treatment that seems to be more effective?

Extensive scientific research and my own clinical experience demonstrate that the most effective long-term solution for anxiety/OCD is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

CBT is a very specific sort of non-medication treatment that is focused on correcting the anxiety thinking that is underlying the obsessions and compulsions. It helps people learn different and more accurate, effective ways of thinking – this can significantly reduce or eliminate obsessions and compulsions.

CBT is very focused on teaching people new tools and techniques for changing old thinking patterns and old behavior patterns. To address the behaviors associated with OCD compulsions, exposure treatment is often included in CBT.

Exposure and response prevention (ERP) is a systematic way of gradually exposing people to the things/situations that cause anxiety while teaching them new ways to respond (eliminating the need for compulsive behavior).

Question 7: Do you think OCD can be cured?

The concept of a “cure” really means correcting the thinking problems and the anxiety thinking that are underlying the obsessions and compulsions. Yes! These thinking processes can be successfully changed with CBT.

Question 8: How did you become a therapist who specializes in anxiety disorders such as OCD?

I decided to specialize in holistic solutions for anxiety because so many people have been told they have to live with anxiety for their whole lives…or that they have to take medications for their whole lives. It is my mission to dispel this myth!

People don’t realize that is completely possible to get rid of all kinds of anxiety. They haven’t been education to understand that anxiety is caused by processes in the brain that they can learn how to change. They just need to learn the effective tools to use. I’ve seen so many people literally change their lives with CBT and holistic tools and techniques that treat anxiety.

Why Are You So Hard On Yourself?

Are you your own worst critic?

What happens when you make a mistake? Are you hard on yourself? Blame yourself? Call yourself names?

What happened to “Love thy neighbor as thyself”? Why do we forget the love thyself part? Most of us are not comfortable with that. We feel selfish if we love ourselves. We give our neighbor the benefit of the doubt, but not ourselves.

Compassion and Self-Compassion

What is compassion? Sympathetic awareness of another’s distress together with a desire to alleviate it.

When your friends and loved ones are hurting or dealing with difficult situations or difficult emotions, compassion means offering them love and support and wishing them easier times. [Love thy neighbor]

What is self-compassion? Responding to yourself with the same kindness, care, and support that you would treat another person that you care about. [Love thyself

It’s so much easier to be objective with someone else. Most of us are overly self-critical. Why?

Internal name calling, negative self-image, and negative self-talk often come from things you experienced in the home you grew up in as a child.

The problem NOW is that thought patterns and beliefs which developed when you were a child feel like they are the truth after all these years of believing them. Just because they feel true does NOT mean they ARE in fact, true and accurate. Time to question them!!

Is Lack of Self-Compassion the Source of Your Anxiety?

Clients often come to my office unsure of why they are having so much anxiety. Many times, the source of anxiety is actually their own negative thoughts and beliefs about themselves:

* Worry about not being good enough
* Questioning whether they are doing enough
* Bothered by what they think other people think

Do any of these sound like you:

We spend way too much time thinking about all the ways we’re not good enough and not enough time acknowledging all the ways that we are perfect – just the way we are!

* The mom who runs herself ragged, worried about whether she is doing enough. Should she be doing more? Do other people think she should be doing more?

* The student whose self-esteem comes from grades and performance and how she ranks, worried about being a failure if she doesn’t get A’s on everything.

* The retiree who can’t allow herself to slow down, relax and enjoy retirement. She thinks she should be doing more, she should have a more important purpose in life, and should be busy all the time to prove it.

* The athlete whose self-value comes from whether or not she wins or loses. Winning and being THE best are only ways to show or validate that she is good enough.

Of course it causes a lot of anxiety to question yourself all the time, to wonder if you are doing enough, and therefore worry…are you a good enough person?

Why We Resist Self-Compassion

According to Kristin Neff, PhD, a leading researcher in the field, it’s the firm belief that being kind to yourself will undermine your motivation.

If I don’t push myself to succeed, I won’t reach my goals.
I’ll get lazy. I’ll be a failure.

Or so we tell ourselves. And most of us fear failure more than anything.

Research actually shows that people who are more self-compassionate tend to achieve more, be more courageous in the face of risk, and are more resilient because they do not give up. They keep trying because they can tolerate the occasional times of failure or mistakes, without deciding that these things mean they are a bad person.

“When we judge ourselves harshly…” notes Kristin, “we start to lose our self-confidence and become more afraid of failing.” It’s a vicious cycle.

It’s also common to hold a firm belief that self-compassion (a form of self-love) is selfish. It is not selfish. It is not narcissistic.

Research suggests the opposite. This is not a self-centered practice. Self-compassionate people are better able to take the perspective of others, and are perceived by others as connected and responsive and caring.

Give It A Try

All good comes from self-compassion. There is no downside. Include yourself in the circle of compassion that you probably extend to your loved ones automatically and naturally. You deserve it.

Notice You’re Alright Right Now

This strategy was adapted from Rick Hanson, Ph.D., a neuropsychologist and author of the best-selling Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom.

Take a close look at this moment, right now. You are probably alright.

Anxiety is always about either:

a) the future (worries and “what if” thoughts), or

b) the past (dwelling on what happened, second-guessing, etc)

Reduce anxiety by intentionally dwelling on the NOW. In this one single moment, are you alright? It may not be perfect, or ideal. You may feel some pain in the now (physical or emotional). But are you safe and OK and basically alright just for this one moment of now?

You are probably alright. Right now. Use this strategy many times throughout your day to bring yourself back into the peace of the present moment.

The 4 Minute Raisin

You’ve heard of mindfulness and research is clear that mindfulness helps reduce anxiety. But HOW can you be mindful?

Here is one simple way to experience and practice mindfulness: Eat one raisin…mindfully. Take 4 minutes to pick up, look at, eat, taste and mindfully experience that raisin.

Sound impossible or silly? Give it a try and get a taste of mindfulness – pun intended 😆 

5 Ways Stress Prevents Weight Loss

Tis the season when many of us are focusing on losing weight.

Whatever you do, please don’t go on a diet. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: diets don’t work. If you are tired of yo-yo dieting, then you know what I mean.

95 to 98% of dieters regain the weight they lost. Does this ring true for you?

Stress and anxiety are huge, huge contributors to:

1. Inability to lose weight
2. Weight gain
3. Inability to keep weight off
4. Inability to maintain ideal weight
5. Overeating

Let’s look at the top reasons why…

1. Emotional Eating

We are actually hardwired to eat when we’re under stress. So stress and emotional eating are often major contributors to inability to lose weight.

This comes from the brain’s evolutionary process; from a time when fight-or-flight was a necessary daily survival skill for cave people. The energy gained from the extra food calories could help the body react and survive in the threat of sabertooth tigers.

Your brain still has that ancient wiring which unconsciously tells you to eat when you feel stress or anxiety.

Food is often used for many reasons completely unrelated to physical hunger: distraction, boredom, avoidance, comfort, love, filling a void, control, anger, anxiety, depression, avoidance of emotions, body image worries, shame. The list could go on and on.

Until you resolve the underlying emotions and related stress, emotional eating will always sabotage weight loss.

Are you an Emotional Eater? Take this QUIZ.

2. Worrying, Sleeping… Leptin and Ghrelin

Stress and anxiety alter the hormone leptin (“the satiety hormone”) which is supposed to tell your body to stop consuming food when you become full. Stress creates an imbalance which prevents that message from coming through, thus causing overeating and bingeing.

Conversely, stress and anxiety cause increases in your levels of ghrelin (the “hunger hormone”). Ghrelin is produced in your stomach and is supposed to signal you that it is time to start eating. Stress and anxiety cause ghrelin to send excess hunger signals… this stimulates appetite, increases food intake and promotes fat storage.

Sleep More and Worry Less

Studies show that shortened sleep time is associated with decreases in leptin and elevations in ghrelin. According to a 2004 study, people who sleep less than six hours a day were almost 30 percent more likely to become obese than those who slept seven to nine hours (from WebMd).

Sleepless nights have a direct impact on brain regions that control decision making and make us more inclined to crave fast food rather than healthier options (from 2013 research at UC Berkeley, from Psychology Today).

Furthermore, a study published in the journal “Appetite” found that worry – just thinking about a stressful event in the future can cause you to eat more by increasing your levels of ghrelin.

3. Cortisol, Metabolism, and your Thyroid

With chronic stress or anxiety, your adrenal glands produce a cascade of hormones connected to your fight-or-flight response. You end up with an excess of adrenaline and cortisol (the main stress hormones).

High cortisol levels signal to your brain that it is time to go into fight-or-flight mode. Then three things happen:

1. Hunger increases.

2. Your thyroid reduces its hormone production and thus slows down your metabolism.

3. Energy, fat, and calories are stored to avoid starvation, and also to conserve energy (in case you need to fight that sabertooth).

Stress ==> more cortisol

==> hunger and increased appetite =

no weight loss and more belly fat

4. Stress, Insulin, and Blood Sugar

Another part of the hormonal cascade that occurs due to stress or anxiety is imbalance in insulin levels. Did you know that insulin was a hormone?

Increases in cortisol caused by stress also can cause higher insulin levels. Insulin regulates your blood sugar. When insulin levels are off, your blood sugar drops and you crave sugary, fatty foods.

 

Stress ==> blood sugar drops

==> food cravings =

weight loss sabotage

5. Stress and Mood – Tryptophan and Vitamin B

Stress and anxiety are both very correlated with low mood and depression. And those things are correlated with weight gain. It creates a vicious cycle.

The more stress and anxiety you have, and the lower your mood, the more likely you are to have food cravings and eat foods that will actually perpetuate the problem.

You might benefit from a boost in serotonin, which is the brain’s feel-good chemical. What most people don’t know is that 95% of your body’s serotonin is produced and stored in your gut.

You can help your gut produce serotonin by increasing a particular amino acid called tryptophan. Foods high in tryptophan can help with mood and are also stress-reducing.

When people feel stressed or anxious and their blood is measured, they tend to have high levels of lactate in their blood. Foods high in B vitamins help stabilize the body’s blood lactate levels, and have a calming effect on your nervous system.

Tired of Diets that Don’t Work?

If you are tired of yo-yo dieting, try a different approach.
Focus on one of the biggest root causes of the problem: stress and anxiety. Read about HOW on my blog:

Emotional eating, Top 5 holiday sabotages, why diets don’t work, what does work
• #1 most effective solution for stress and anxiety, the one and only resolution you ever need

Remember…
If you always do what you always did…
You’ll always get what you always got.

Your Free Well-Being Toolkit

The Center For Healthy Minds in Madison, Wisconsin is a treasure with a national reputation.  The Center was founded by world renowned researcher  Dr. Richard J. Davidson.  We are blessed to have this leading edge research and resource in our local community. 

Their mission:  Cultivate well-being and relieve suffering through a scientific understanding of the mind.

Check out their many free online tools and meditations

Figuring Out What YOU Really Want

Anxiety treatment - Di Philippi, Brookfield, Milwaukee

In the midst of what can turn into a “crazy busy” season, the best way to have less stress is to put YOU smack dab on the top of your To Do List.

Think about what you really WANT this month…Not all the things you should do, not what others want you to do. Instead…ask yourself a few questions:

 

How would you like to feel during this holiday season?

What would you like to do just for YOU?

What would you like to NOT do?

Depending on your answers, I have a lot of creative ideas for you:

• If you want less pressure to have the “perfect” holiday, read THIS

• If you want to survive the holidays without sabotaging your healthy eating, check THIS out 

• To feel more gratitude during the season, read the 5 Ways to Practice Gratitude toward the end of this ARTICLE 

• For more peaceful feelings, try THIS

• If you want to smile more and experience FUN amidst the busy season, here are 6 Easy Tools 

• To escape commercialism, find more meaning, and get a warm-hearted feeling inside, try tip #4 or tip #6 HERE 

• To give yourself permission to slow down and relieve holiday pressures, read THIS 

• If you want to escape the craziness, then relax with THIS 5-minute Tool 

• To feel more connected with your loved ones, try THIS

• Want to give yourself the most meaningful and important gift for the New Year? Here’s HOW

Anxiety Treatment in Brookfied,Milwaukee

 

Wishing you all that you want this holiday season!

 

 

Do A Cost-Benefit Analysis

Many of the holistic anxiety-reduction techniques that I recommend are really pretty easy to learn and easy to do. But people often tell me they don’t have the time for it. Time becomes the barrier. I get that. We are living in a “crazy busy” time and we all have plenty to do.

Time is a cost, just as money is a cost. Even the time we spend earning money is a cost.

If you can layout both the costs and benefits of taking action (and then see how the benefits outweigh the costs), then you will be motivated to prioritize time and tasks differently. For example, I have one client who chose to make time for Mindful Belly Breathing Meditation – 2 times a day for 15 minutes each as I had recommended. That 30 minutes per day was a big cost. Today, she’s receiving so much benefit from it that she asked if it is OK to do it 3 times a day!

Comparing your costs to the benefits might be the motivation you need to take positive action… and start reaping the benefits.

Dalai Lama’s Prescription for Anxiety

I want to share with you what I am learning right now from the Dalai Lama.

anxiety treatment of Dalai Lama - Mental Immunity via CBT wtih Di Philippi

 

I love neuroscience and I often talk about the human brain. It’s so fascinating how our brains generate anxiety, and I teach many neuroscience-based techniques for eliminating anxiety.

Neuroscience is a very new discipline (since about the 1990’s), growing exponentially along with technology advances.

So it was quite ironic to me to discover the very non-scientific and very ancient perspective of the Dalai Lama (in “The Book of Joy” by the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa.)

 

Prevent Suffering from Anxiety

According to the Dalai Lama: “[Just] as a healthy immune system and healthy constitution protects your body again potentially hazardous viruses and bacteria, mental immunity creates a healthy disposition of the mind so that it will be less susceptible to negative thoughts and feelings.”

Our own negative thoughts and feelings are what cause our suffering.

The Sanskrit word for these negative thoughts and feelings in the Buddha’s time was “Dukkha,” which can be translated as “stress” or “anxiety.” Buddha identified Dukkha as the core of much of our unnecessary suffering.

On the flip side of that, when people call me to inquire about anxiety treatment, what do you think is the one thing they consistently tell me they want (besides getting rid of anxiety)? Happiness. The Sanskrit word for this is “Sukha.”

How to find Sukha and eliminate and even prevent Dukkha? The Dalai Lama says mental immunity is the answer:

Developing Mental Immunity

1. Meditation.  As a Buddhist monk, one of the main ways the Dalai Lama builds mental immunity is through his daily meditation practice.

The Dalai Lama meditates for 5 hours a day! But you don’t have to! There are hundreds of different types of meditation so you can find a technique that works for you. Here’s an easy way to start with 3 minutes a day: Metta Meditation.

Meditation is proven by both monks and neuroscience research as a way to calm the mind and effectively reduce anxiety. But mental immunity can be built in other ways as well.

 

2. Mindfulness can be a meditation technique but it is also so much more. It is a way of being. It is a way of doing anything at all, in a mindful way, which is achieved mentally by training your brain to remain present and focused in the present moment.

Anxiety is most often about the future – even if it is the future just 5 minutes from now. Five seconds from now, or 5 minutes or 5 days or 5 years, are all in the future.

Developing your mental ability for mindfulness helps you stay in this moment of now, which reduces anxiety.

 

3. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) helps you develop mental immunity by literally training the neural pathways in your brain to actually think differently. What is CBT?  Click HERE to find out. It works to create mental immunity by changing the way your brain thinks and responds to anxiety-provoking situations. Click HERE to learn more about how it works for anxiety.

CBT also helps you eliminate “stinking thinking”/”anxiety thinking” which also creates mental immunity.

The Dalai Lama on the need for mental immunity: