The sheer nature of boss-employee relationship, regardless of how laid-back it might be, guarantees that there will be at least some friction and tension. The boss, in essence, needs you to do some work for them and has a spectrum of tools to use in getting what they want out of you. This will always cause strain, that’s just how it is. Work-related stress falls under the top five life pressures for the majority of working people. Read more “Difficult Bosses: A Man’s Survival Guide”
Meditation is Part of Mindfulness.
It’s a notion that is possibly as foreign to an average Western guy as is yoga, if not even more. (Lotus flower what?) Yet, meditation has always been traditionally practiced by men in the Eastern Hemisphere where it originates from. In our previous post, we spoke about yoga for men. We discussed why it is so difficult for men to initiate interest in practicing it, and once they’ve overcome that hurdle, how to get past the social, physical, and psychological barriers that are prominent in Western society. Most classes are still a majority women.
Yoga is becoming more and more widely known, and accepted by men however. It’s been long known that football teams have used other balance-oriented physical activity such as ballet to improve strength. Thus, mindful, wellness oriented men are aware of the good benefits of yoga. Empirically, meditation has also been proven repeatedly to increase mental and physical wellness. Yet, even so, it’s still difficult to overcome those societal “barriers.”
Mindfulness meditation is a practice in which a person exercises voluntary attention in order to bring their mind into a state of greater clarity, calmness, and balance. You’ve probably heard about mindfulness here or there and you might even know that it supposedly brings a lot of good to those who practice it. While this is definitely true, let’s dig deeper into the effects it has on your mind and body.
Why Try Mindfulness Meditation?
- Mindfulness reduces rumination.
- Intrusive repetitive thoughts are associated with depression and other emotional disorders. Even novices report ruminating less after as little as ten days of mindful meditation.
- Mindfulness reduces stress.
- This is among the most researched and solidly established effects of mindfulness meditation.
- Mindfulness boosts working memory.
- Mindfulness boosts our cognitive functioning and our working memory efficacy. Such effects of mindful meditation increase our overall productivity and clarity of mind.
- Mindfulness increases focus.
- Those who practice mindful meditation have a greater ability to focus one’s attention and ignore distracting stimuli.
- Mindfulness leads to a reduction in emotional reactivity.
- Mindfulness makes us the rulers of our own emotions. You can better control your anger, jealousy, bitterness, or any other negative feeling.
- Mindfulness brings greater cognitive flexibility.
- By being less emotionally reactive (and having greater focus as well as a more efficiently operating working memory), our minds become more flexible. Some would describe it as being more creative in work, relationships, or thinking in general.
- Mindfulness helps our relationships.
- Many studies show that mindfulness increases our self-awareness and empathy by reducing impulsive reactions. Meditation also helps to decrease rumination and holding on to past (negative) events or conflicts.
- Mindfulness brings health benefits.
- In addition to these psychological effects, mindfulness is closely associated with a range of health benefits. Meditation helps increase immune system functionality, reduces in the strain put on cardiovascular system, improves cortisol levels and provides a neurological system “reset.”
There are Many Forms of Meditation.
In essence, this is a wide term that can encompass many practices, some of which you might already be exercising in some way even if you’re not aware of it. Meditation, in a sense, is any form of conscious and deliberate effort to focus your mind or influence the state of consciousness for the sake of greater balance, concentration, empathy and understanding, and gain control over your thoughts, emotions and actions. Therefore, whenever you, for example, tried to count to ten before reacting, attempted to stop ruminating, reminded yourself to be in the present instead of thinking of past ills, you performed a kind of meditation without knowing it. So, there’s no good reason why not to try a more structured and guided mode of those efforts in a form of mindfulness meditation.
What is interesting is that many interventions in psychotherapy incorporate mindfulness and meditative techniques. So, if you feel that you need a gradual introduction to meditation, visiting a psychotherapist who will help you with your focus, stress, emotions, balance… This could be a little closer to our Western way of thinking and an opening to the benefits of Eastern practices at the same time. Speaking of, that’s how I also operate my practice. Read more about my unique zen-influenced modalities.
Davis, D. M. & Hayes, J. A. (2012). What are the benefits of mindfulness. Monitor on Psychology, Vol 43, No. 7, p. 64
Stop. Breathe. & Think. App on iPhone.
You might as well stop reading this right now. Seriously. Go outside! Read a book! Anything’s better than scrolling, scrolling… well, you get the picture. Ah, well, since you’re here though, let me explain why you should get out there and experience the world rather than sit here and listen to me. Maybe you can take a walk when we’re done and see how you feel afterwards.
Basically, it’s just all an illusion.
Truly. It’s been proven time and time again how easily someone can manipulate pictures just by the angle or lighting. Here is one of my favorite collections of how we know that everything on Facebook and Instagram could be a lie.
There are powerful companies and influential bloggers behind so many social media profiles that you have to remember that not every picture is reality. Then, advertisers pay them to keep up their profiles. “Real life” is how marketers operate now. In some ways, it is transparent, showing you what people are eating, doing, seeing. Yet, the other side of the camera is someone carefully crafting the photo and set up. Then, many times, adding after effects.
Everybody lies a little bit on social media.
Disagree? Okay fine. How about exaggeration at the least? The fact is, we don’t take pictures of the mundane activities in our lives. Everyone is sharing their “amazing” parts in life. Have you heard the quote about not comparing your behind the scenes with another person’s on-stage performance? It applies to social media too. It’s important to remember that they too have regular lives behind the scenes.
And, here’s some more evidence that we found from a New York Times article recently. Basically, the stats add up to show that things are disproportionately attributed on social media. For example, “Americans spend about six times as much of their time cleaning dishes as they do golfing. But there are roughly twice as many tweets reporting golfing as there are reporting doing the dishes.”
Further, people also keep some guilty pleasures to themselves and thus represent an incomplete picture of who they really are. (Who’s that busting some Taylor Swift back there?) They might never admit it, but there are activities and interests that many people have that they also keep to themselves. Thus, once again, social media only represents a curated section of our lives.
In my practice, it usually comes back to balance every time. I can’t say to not use social media whatsoever, for to do so, you might limit yourself to only knowing about certain events or miss out on staying in touch with an old friend. However, limiting your own access to social media or even deleting the app from your phone from time to time can really help you break the semi-addictive “scroll cycle” that many of us are victims to.
Checking in with social media is fun sometimes and helps you stay connected by sharing news or something you’re proud of. A little too much and you start to know a few too many details about each other’s lives! (Totally not weird? Weird? Yeah.) Either way, looking at social media and getting affected by its contents is where it starts to affect your day.
How does it go down? How about this. You call a friend to hang out, get lunch, dinner, whatever. No response. Then, a few hours later, you see this epic group shot of a majority of your friends climbing a mountain together. What? No invite? Are we even friends? Am I someone people don’t want to be around or something? And, it can go downhill from there. Remember Rule #1 though, it’s all an illusion. Once you find out the reason behind the lack of an invite (i.e. “We knew you had to work at 3pm and this was a 10 hour thing,” etc.), it all makes sense. Yet, the emotional response to the picture is what affects us so much and causes us to draw false conclusions at times (leading to potential arguments and meltdowns!).
Social media is a place where people’s ego’s can shine. It is also a place for connection and beautiful moments. In a digital “world” like social media, any number of real life feelings are going on. It can be a “Wild Wild West” of content and jibber jabber. And, when you open up your device, you never know what you’ll see first to set your mood off for the day. Remember this and try to set your own boundaries so social media doesn’t sweep you up and steal your precious time and energy. Okay, bye now!!!
From the evolutionary standpoint, stress was a positive thing – it activated “flight-or-fight” type of reaction that had a purpose to protect life and health in critical situations, such as running into a saber-toothed tiger. This reaction mobilized all of the organism’s resources in order to enable an endangered individual to either run for their life, or fight for it. However, a modern man is rarely exposed to such extreme conditions; still, this intensive reaction reoccurs each time he encounters even a minor stressor. Since stress can cause harm to literally every part of one’s body and seriously jeopardize mental health, much research was done in order to fully understand it. And one of the interesting findings is that men and women react to stress very differently.
Why is Men’s Stress More Damaging?
Research on stress indicated that men have biologically different reactions to stressors that might be responsible for more damaging effects it has to their health. This fact combines with cultural demands for men to stay strong and composed in any situation (which is harmful by itself), and results in a very dangerous cocktail of pressure and strain.
Any stressful situation causes our bodies to produce several hormones that activate our ability to fight danger more effectively, such as cortisol and adrenaline. But in addition to these, one more hormone is important for our reactions to stressors – oxytocin. It has a role in mellowing the influence of cortisol and adrenaline through inducing relaxing emotions. And here is the key to the damage we are talking about – men release significantly less oxytocin. This may be biological foundation to the fact that women tend to connect with others when they are stressed, and address problems through talking about their emotions.
Men, on the other hand, tend to disengage, and literally turn off their emotion-processing centers. As a result, men might be better problem-solvers at times, but this comes with a cost. Lower levels of oxytocin allow cortisol and adrenaline to decrease one’s immune system activity and increase blood pressure in greater extent. Furthermore, not addressing our emotions, ignoring them and seeking distractions, which is something men do regularly, could lead to an accumulated frustration and disproportionately strong reactions to minor stressors (lashing out at our wives and children, overreacting when our coworkers skip a meeting, road rage…).
What Do Men Stress About?
Studies show that men tend to be far more stressed about work than women do. And this is probably no news for you. The pressures to succeed at work are manifold – in almost all societies, a man ought to be a fighter, a provider, on top of his game at all times, and his self-realization is measured by how accomplished in career he is. Women do experience severe stress due to the conflicts of their work and family-related roles, but they usually get to say: “I just can’t do it…” or “It’s so hard…” and a man still doesn’t have the luxury of complaining. For a man to be stressed, or at least admitting it, is interpreted as weakness. And this sort of thinking is what pushes men into all sorts of maladaptive reactions to stressors and leads to severe negative consequences in many areas of their lives.
How to Fight Stress
If prolonged and chronic, stress can have devastating effects on the organism. If we are constantly under pressure, adrenal glands secret too much cortisol; but over time, the body’s ability to produce it diminishes. In that way, the immune system’s efficiency is lowered, causing a variety of psychosomatic diseases. We are fairly often under chronic stress, due to school, work, or family obligations. But there are methods everyone can apply to cope with stress in a healthy way – taking mental hygiene steps (recognizing stress cycle, dealing with unhelpful automatic thoughts, practicing relaxation techniques, exercising) and life style changes (healthy diet, getting enough sleep, etc.).
Nonetheless, studies show that men rarely endeavor into addressing stress and implementing changes in their habits in order to fight it. They often don’t even realize how much they are straining their health, or mask stress by creating conflicts, engaging in risky behavior, or avoiding stressful situations all together. This is why it is of crucial importance for every man to approach a therapist as a preventative measure, even when he believes that he’s not under stress, in order to get an objective and expert advice on how to prevent serious damages to his mental and physical health.
Ready to start working on your personal stress levels?
The nature of a psychotherapist’s work offers an insight into some perpetual misunderstandings that often go too far, and cause serious harm to otherwise loving and caring relationship. It is not at all uncommon to meet a couple who is completely drained by constant fighting. And none of the two seems to understand clearly where the problem is. The woman believes that the man doesn’t care for her and finds her annoying and boring; and the man feels baffled by what his loved partner wants from him, and thinks that she’s just trying to pick a fight. And none is right. The problem is simple, and should have a simple solution – if not left to spiral out of control. You probably heard this already – a woman talks to connect, a man talks to present and solve problems. But let’s explore this fact a bit more.
Purposeful? Yes, But What is the Purpose Exactly?
Men and women communicate, and interact, in very different manners. The post “The Silence of Men – How do Men Communicate in Relationships?” already outlined some of those differences, and explained one common source of misunderstandings between genders – a frequent avoidance of emotion-sharing from the side of men. Nonetheless, there is another significant difference that originates from such different perspective men and women have on how a conversation ought to look like. Men believe that every conversation needs to be a purposeful event. But, beware – women will probably argue that they do too! How come then that one so often hears about arguments over nothing? Well, the difference lies in the discrepancy between what the purpose of a conversation is for women and men.
A woman will come home from work and hurl an avalanche of daily frustrations to her man: “The car went dead 4 times before I got to the office. Again! Finally, when I arrived, as I was 15 minutes late for the damn meeting, everyone looked at me like I fell from the sky a minute ago!” And you know how it goes, when the day sets off like this, the whole day will be upside down! Then Alice snapped at me because I didn’t hear what she was saying….” etc. But we went too far – in practice, the woman probably wouldn’t get further from the car causing trouble again, before her beloved husband or boyfriend interrupts to say that they should drive it to the service shop immediately, before something truly dangerous happens. Men, practical as we are, think in problem-solution relations. And we mean it well. It is our duty to protect those who we love, and we do it by fixing things that could cause them to be hurt. But to our horror, women get annoyed and hurt when we do this, and the irrational argument is on its way!
Women rarely see our knightly instinct to protect them in this way. They see it as a symptom of us not being interested in what they have to say. Women are hardwired to connect through interaction and conversation. And they care less for taking the car to the shop, or how to speak to the Alices in their lives the next time Alice snaps at them, then they care if you listen to them. Of course you listen, you’ll say. Yes, but women define “listening” in a different way. It may be frustrating, but it is just the way your loved one sees the world. Listening for our gentle half means that you express compassion for her feelings in a situation, let her vent the frustration out by talking about it, and show that you are there for her – just to console her, not to fix anything.
How to Find the Common Ground with our Loved Ones
The saddest thing in case of relationship problems (if the above described miscommunication gets out of hand) is that most of them could have been so easily prevented or fixed. And the main postulate that gets so easily overlooked when one finds oneself in a horror of constant arguments is that it is a relationship between two people who love and care for each other. Remind yourself of that whenever you see that your conversation with your spouse or partner might get out of control. Having that in mind, there are several things you might do to prevent this simple misunderstanding from destroying your relationship.
Bear in mind that your wife or girlfriend processes her emotions and searches for a solution herself while she’s talking to you. She just needs a safe place to work through her problems, and all you need to do is to listen without interrupting her or offering solutions until she explicitly asks for them.
Be aware of her perspective – when you offer a solution, she probably doesn’t see it in that way. She might interpret this as you being annoyed or bored by all the details of her story. And consequently – as not being interested in her!
Instead of offering different solutions, try asking about her feelings, about what exactly is troubling her and finally – about how she thinks the problem should be solved. In that way, you will truly help your partner to reach a conclusion while tackling her emotional reaction as well. And you will give her what she needs – care and nurture.
She can handle the problems by herself, she just needs support from her husband or boyfriend, remember that.
Finally, if you recognized yourself in the description of a drained couple from the beginning of this post, it would be advisable to contact a therapist who will be able to help you see the situation more objectively, and stop the vicious circle you might have found yourself over such an easily solvable problem.
Having issues in your relationship or want to learn how to make it even more fulfilling? Please schedule a session today. It is a huge relief having someone to bounce ideas and thoughts off of. Are you ready? Click here to schedule your own appointment based on what works in your schedule. I look forward to meeting with you.
This film came out within the last few years, and if you haven’t seen it yet….do it.
Are you an adult? Still see it. Are you a guy who might feel weird getting caught watching a kid’s Disney movie? Watch it anyway. Watch it alone with a bunch of your favorite snacks and get ready to potentially ball your eyes out as you relate to the intricate balance of emotions portrayed in the mind of a little 11-year-old girl, Riley. By the way, she’s a badass that plays hockey, so it definitely crosses genders.
When Riley’s family suddenly moves from the comfort of her Minnesota home to the new, strange world of San Francisco, not to mention at a very tender age, her emotions get slapped in the face with the reality of her new situation.
Five emotions are represented: Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger and Disgust.
Each has a unique role in keeping Riley safe and happy. Throughout the film, Joy seems to lead the pack of emotions, doing her best to make lemonade wherever possible. Sadness and Joy are often together the most, with Joy being uncomfortably frustrated with nearly everything she does.
Joy does her best to keep Sadness at bay. She draws a circle for her to stand (and stay) in. And, at one point, she ditches Sadness in the “long term memory bank,” hoping she will eventually disappear from Riley’s mind. Joy wants Riley to be happy, not sad.
What Joy realizes though, is that Riley cannot have Joy without Sadness. They absolutely must have a partnership and it is because of the other that they exist. For example, there is a day that Joy remembers differently from Sadness where Riley misses the final goal and her hockey team loses the championship and she feels she is to blame. It is through this Sadness that her family comforts her, giving her Joy.
You see, without Sadness, how would we know Joy?
Although the feelings of Sadness can be uncomfortable, it can also bring us great happiness. For example, when you remember someone that you have lost…. It is painful. So painful that you may burst into uncontrollable tears thinking of the soul you loved so much. But, through the pain of sadness, you still undoubtedly remember the joy and happiness that you felt knowing that person and the gratefulness for having them once in your life.
Sadness and Joy must be friends, for to have one without the other would render each completely useless. It’s an incredible film that explains emotions in a universally understood way.
Here’s a quick video from the movie when Joy realizes the importance of Sadness. Does it move you too?
Are you in a place right now that feels more sadness than joy on a regular, repeated basis?
Maybe it’s time to talk to someone about balancing your sadness with joy. That’s what therapy can do. It allows you a support system and person to lean on during tough times. It allows you a safe place to talk about what has happened or is happening to you. It’s a place where joy can come back into your life.
Ready to take a chance? You’ll find out if therapy is right for you and if we might make a good team together. Take a deep breath and go for it. There’s nothing to lose and a lot to gain. Hope to hear from you!
Ever wonder what the secret is to great multitasking?
Maybe you’re already good at it, or maybe it’s an area you’d like to improve.
A popular trait touted by today’s younger workforce, multitasking skills are often revered as an indicator of productivity, organization and efficiency. However, while switching between tasks, does anything get lost in the shuffle? Being flexible and able to readjust focus quickly is great, but is multitasking really the answer to getting more done and doing it well?
To answer these questions, it’s worth considering the neuroscience happening in your brain when you multitask and how multitasking affects and is affected by mindfulness.
The Brain’s Attentional System
First, you must understand that the human brain can only focus on one thing at a time. Simply put, multitasking happens when your brain is switching back and forth between competing items. Your brain is not focusing on both items continuously at the same time, rather, it shifts attention between them, much like a searchlight rotates to illuminate whatever it is directed to.
The parts of the brain responsible for controlling the attentional system are:
- Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex – directs your attention and intentional focus
- Anterior Cingulate Cortex – provides the attentional capability/power
Combined, these two sections of your brain make up the attentional “searchlight” that lets you focus on one or multiple competing things at a time.
Mindfulness Techniques Improve Focus
If you have trouble staying focused on one thing, or struggle with switching between tasks or multitasking, exercises in mindful meditation and breathing techniques are beneficial. By practicing mindfulness, you can strengthen your attentional searchlight to better direct and sustain focus.
Mindful breathing techniques involve focusing on taking deep, slow breathes while ignoring distractions and intrusive thoughts. While it may be difficult to cut out these stimuli at first, with practice you will be able to control your reactions and direct your attention where you intend. How, exactly? Exercising your conscious focus strengthens the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, which actually grows and expands synaptic strength.
Is Multitasking the Answer?
So, your brain can focus on one thing at a time and you can practice mindfulness exercises to strengthen its ability to shift focus and concentrate, but are better multitasking skills the right goal? It depends.
By improving your brain’s ability to focus better on one thing at a time without distractions, you increase the chances of compelting a task more thoroughly and quickly. Working more efficiently eliminates some need to multitask, as time is freed up to move from one thing to the next. As you’re moving more quickly between tasks, completing them one by one rather than circling back around, the need to multitask could take a backseat.
The Benefits of Sustained Focus
Along with working more quickly and efficiently, strengthening your focus through mindful breathing gives you the freedom to escape from everyday stressors such as dwelling on the negative, worrying, anxious thoughts and obsessive thought patterns. Rather than being a victim of your thoughts, you can take control and direct where your energies go.
To learn more about mindfulness techniques or schedule a session, feel free to call our Denver office at 720-295-4233 or simply click below.