“You are imperfect, you are wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.”
― Brené Brown
Sometimes, my students talk about shame in their lives; lack of power that comes from who they “should” be. They have strong feelings about what they “should” do or how they “should” live their lives. Part of their frustrations, fear and lack of connections appear to emerge from these rules. They are surprised when I tell them shame is a very common but rarely talked about emotion.
Brené Brown, a Professor at University of Houston defines shame as ‘the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging’
‘For women, shame is a web of unattainable expectations that say, Do it all, Do it perfectly, and Never let them see you struggle.
For men, the primary shame mandate is, Do not be perceived as weak.
I hope, as you look at New Year Resolutions, you will consider these definitions and look at yourself from a more courageous perspective. I hope you will look at yourselves as worthy individuals in the quest for transforming yourself. Look at yourself with more compassion rather than in judgment. Once you are willing you to do that, you will find yourself being more objective and compassionate about others in your life. You will be amazed at the connection you are able to make. You will be amazed at the creativity and innovativeness of your inner self.
Here are some tips to transform yourself as you set your New Year Resolutions
You are probably reading this article because you know the benefits of meditation and mindfulness. Regular meditation has shown to help you become calmer, happier and more resilient. Make sure you practice your daily routine of meditation/mindfulness as part of your transformation.
Brené Brown studies human connection -- our ability to empathize, belong, love. In a poignant, funny talk, she shares a deep insight from her research, one that sent her on a personal quest to know herself as well as to understand humanity. Check out this link.
I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn't): Making the Journey from "What Will People Think?" to "I Am Enough" Paperback by Brene Brown (Author)
My brother is my number one motivator and supporter. He always listens to my ideas and provides me constant encouragement. He often takes time to remind me of my major accomplishments – my doctorate degree, the multiple endurance events I have completed, my book on heart disease that I have co-authored. He says “You have tremendous willpower and that is why you accomplish so many things!”
Whoa! I don’t see myself with any extraordinary amounts of will power – perseverance! Yes! Willpower! No! I succumb to the ice-cream and cookie jar like most other people! It is not enough to suppress those feelings or thoughts. You know they will bounce back and you will end up in eating that whole box of cookies or quart of ice-cream. If you want to make changes – small changes like going for a walk every day, finish some important paper work OR big changes like losing 20+ lbs of weight or quit smoking, you need more than just willpower!
Recent research shows that will power is a mind-body response, not a virtue. It is a biological function that can be improved through mindfulness, exercise, nutrition, and sleep. Willpower is not an unlimited resource. Too much self-control can actually be bad for your health. Your environment and your stress levels can impact your self-control.
You can train yourself for greater will power! I believe the answer lies in the nature of our attention. Mindfulness! No surprise – What kind of answers did you expect in this blog anyway?
Step 1 – Focus on why you are making changes – especially your emotional reasonsIt is not enough to say you have rational reasons for making your changes. You have to back them with powerful emotional motivation. If you want to lose weight, don’t just focus on the health reasons for losing weight. Focus on the emotional aspects of being overweight. Come up with 10-20 reasons why you want to lose weight and pick the top three that mean a lot to you!
Step 2 – Create the Right Environment - If you want to lose weight and you have a group of friends who love to go to guzzle beer or eat often in buffets, you are going to give in to those temptations. When I trained for a marathon, I started hanging around a set of friends who run regularly. Every Wednesday, we met for a Water Melon run. We ran 4 miles and then shared a large water melon. In the weekends, we went for long runs. If you want to use your treadmill regularly, put it in front of the TV and use it when you watch your favorite TV program.
Step 3 – Aim for consistency NOT perfection - Too many people focus on perfection and beat themselves when they miss out a few parts of their program.. It is OK and completely natural to screw up your schedule or have unexpected changes. Take heart and move forward. If you are in that category, take your time to motivate yourself for a fresh start.
Yeah! Don’t forget your meditation and mindfulness practice! It is one of the best ways to train your mind to respond and NOT react!
How to Say No to Almost Anything!
OK! I must admit that I am not as open as I think I am. Over the years, I had ADHD students who squirmed through sitting meditation sessions; they claimed to be distracted by every little sound and always wanted to learn new routines. I was always puzzled as to what benefits they received from my classes. Once they got into the routine of these classes, they just showed up regularly for the classes.
Here are some comments I received from these students
“Wow! I have never felt so deeply relaxed”
“I love that I am more aware of my emotions. I feel I can step out and observe my feelings and emotions rather than react”
“The loving, kindness peace meditation helps me be more compassionate and loving towards myself”
Recently, one of my students lent me a book The Mindfulness Prescription for Adult ADHD: An 8-Step Program for Strengthening Attention, Managing Emotions, and Achieving Your Goals by Lidia Zylowska.The book hit me like a ton of bricks!
I became more curious and checked out the latest research papers on meditation and ADHD. These students have got it right. Meditation CAN help people with ADHD.
Here are some lessons my ADHD students have taught me about the power of meditation.
Lesson 1 – ADHD is not about attention deficiency – it is about attention regulation. Meditation is the “Awareness of Awareness”. We have learned that it is perfectly alright for the mind to wander and the act of meditation and mindfulness is about bringing the mind to the present. The analogy is that your mind that is like a puppy dog that wanders around you AND when you offer it a hug, it comes back to you wagging its tail. I use a lighted candle or ring the meditation bell to draw the attention of my students to the present. My students have been able to leverage these techniques to relax themselves.
Lesson 2 – Visualization and Kinesthetic exercises work best for me - Most people think of meditation as a boring activity of sitting quietly and having no thoughts. My students appreciate the variety of techniques I teach. Visualization exercises (such as the Happy Place, included in Step-By-Step Meditation), tracing complex designs or walking meditations seem to work best for many of my ADHD students.
Lesson 3 – Teach meditation step-by-step - I am very creative. My ADHD students have a very active imagination and they love when I let them play around with their mental exercises. They prefer it when I teach them one step at a time. I take time to repeat my exercises. They are very creative and modify the meditation programs to get the most out of it.
Advice for adults and children with ADHD who want to learn meditation
This 15 minute guided meditation helps the student to a deep meditative state while tracing a labyrinth design.
The Mindfulness Prescription for Adult ADHD: An 8-Step Program for Strengthening Attention, Managing Emotions, and Achieving Your Goals by Lidia Zylowska.
The Gift of ADHD: How to Transform Your Child's Problems into Strengths by Lara Honos-Webb
ADD Stole My Car Keys by Rick Green and Umesh Jain.
Monastra, V.J. (2005). Overcoming the barriers to effective treatment for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: A neuroeducational approach. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 58, 71-80
S Van der Oord, SM Bögels, D Peijnenburg - The effectiveness of mindfulness training for children with ADHD and mindful parenting for their parents, Journal of Child and Family Studies, February 2012, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 139-147,
E van de Weijer-Bergsma, AR Formsma The effectiveness of mindfulness training on behavioral problems and attentional functioning in adolescents with ADHD Journal of child and Family, October; 21(5): 775–787. 2012 - Springer
a guided finger meditation
Engage your senses with soothing music, guided imagery and a labyrinth tracing activity which leverages the power of touch. Click the album cover to learn more.