Meditation on College Campuses

Asia Adams, Staff Writer

Take projects, presentations, term papers and exams, throw in a job, and then add family and social life to the equation, and you have a recipe for lots of stress. I know – I was there over a year and half ago! With an increasing number of demands on college students, it’s no wonder many of them are seeking ways to reduce the harmful effects of stress on both mind and body.

Putting aside a little bit of quiet time each week to recharge and focus on something other than schoolwork is important, and this is where meditation comes in. It’s free, can be done virtually anywhere, anytime, and is highly effective. What more could a college student want from a practice?

Read more…

Let’s Color! Adult Coloring Books for Mindfulness

Asia Adams, Staff Writer

Secret GardenColoring books aren’t just for kids anymore!  During a recent trip to Barnes & Noble, I was surprised to come across an aisle consisting entirely of adult coloring books.  Until then, I didn’t know that such a thing existed, let alone what a fan of them I was about to become!  I ended up walking out with Secret Garden by Johanna Basford in hand.  Bursting with intricate floral designs, the book has proven to be a tremendously therapeutic, and dare I way, easy way to incorporate mindfulness into my daily life.  I’ve pulled it out on numerous occasions; to pass the time on long flights, when I wanted to divert my attention from a stressful situation to a more pleasant one, and when I was simply in need of a creative outlet.  For those who just can’t seem to get into a yoga or meditation practice, these coloring books may be an enjoyable way to experience mindfulness in daily living.

Introducing CALM: Stress Reduction & Mindfulness for Teens

Shutt Fav Headshot (1)Modern life has many amenitites that simplify and automate our lives; however, daily demands continue to grow rapidly.  Technological advances streamline tasks while simultaneously keep us connected to social media, news, and email.  We have at our fingertips the ability to reap the benefits of a less stressful lifestyle, but we often pursue the path of more rather than less.  Besides the obvious negative impact on our own health, modeling this more and more lifestyle has consquenses for our children as well.  (Don’t worry! Nonjudgment…I’ve made many of these choices too.) Recognizing stress motivates us parents to incorporate stress reduction practices into our own lives.  How do we then identify and incorporate stress reduction into the lives of our children?

Some stress is part of everday living.  In teenagers, many stressful life expereinces are often part of the norm.  Mild stress can be helpful to motivate one to complete difficult taks and reach important goals.  However, excessive and/or chronic stress in teens may result in a downward spiral of emotional and physical problems.  Common signs of stress in teens include:

Difficulty sleeping

Changes in appetite (too much or too little)

Excessive worry thoughts

Avoidance of social situations and activities

Frequent illness

Headaches and stomachaches

Extreme anger or sadness (reacts or overreacts)

Substance abuse

Parents who have identified stress related symptoms, anxiety, or depression in their child or adolescent might have already sought psychotherapy treatment. In addition to therapy, research has demonstrated that mindfulness is an effective tool for reducing stress, offering teens a way out of suffering and reducing risk to complications that arise from untreated anxiety and depression (including dropping out of school, addiction, and suicide).  Mindfulness can also help with the everyday challenges of being a teen, such as college testing and applications, homework, extracurricular activities and social relationships.  Offering teens an alternative way of building stress resiliency before they breakdown can be an excellent preventative medicine tool.  Some tips to incorporate mindfulness into your teen’s life include:

1. Disconnect!  Even if it is only for 20 minutes, remind your teen that downtime is important.  Turn off the technology and focus on breathing.  Breathe in a full breath (fuller than usual) and very slowly exhale, feeling the sensations of letting go.  With each exhale, there is a softening of the body.  Repeat.

2. Naming. When you are stressed, take time to pause, identify and name your emotions and thoughts.  Ask yourself, “Is this really true?”  Check the facts and see if there are any exaggeration of thoughts or catastrophic beliefs.  What can you realistically do about it now?  If nothing else, practice letting go.  Reframe by thinking, “I am feeling stressed about _____ and I intend to do _______ about it, or I am going to let this go for now.

3. If your mind is racing and overwhelmed with too many thoughts, STOP.  Stop everying.  Take a deep breath, Observe your breath, Proceed mindfully with just one thought.

Utilizing these easy tools now will provide teens with a lifetime of healthy coping mechanisms.  To advance your teen’s mindfulness knowledge even further, learn more about CALM: Teen Mindfulness Workshop at Sacred Treehouse.  This workshop will teach teens techniques to help cultivate acceptance and live mindfully.  Classes will include gentle yoga and stretching, mindful meditation, group discussion, and self-reflection activities. 

Wishing you and your children health, joy, and peace. 

– Dr. Patty Shutt

CALM: Teen Mindfulness Workshop will begin on Saturday, October 24th, 3:30-5:00 p.m.  For more information, please call 561-278-6033.

Summer Reading: No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering

No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering by Thich Nhat Hanh
Sara Goldstein, Staff Writer

The date was Saturday, May 9th, 2015. After my first experience with Dr. Shutt’s Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction silent retreat, I immediately drove to Barnes & Noble in search of more literature to keep me inspired. In retrospect, this was not the wisest decision. My car, under the influence of my relaxed mind, glided down Military Trail. As I pulled into the chaotic parking lot, I realized that I was not ready to overwhelm my brain with sensations.   There were too many lights, sounds, and people to navigate.

I gravitated toward the religious shelves and stood before Buddhism. My fingers brushed against Pema Chodron, Deepak Chopra and many titles with the word “zen”, stopping at Thich Nhat Hanh. Thich (pronounced like the word tick) is an old favorite of mine. There are countless titles to choose, spanning several decades and many different subjects. Like No Mud, No Lotusa shark drawn to a shiny object, I picked up No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering. The exterior is beautiful, but the words inside are even more exquisite.

Many of us have made it our mission to avoid emotional and physical discomfort. Readers are challenged to accept their suffering, inviting in all unpleasant experiences rather than trying to avoid them through consumption, addiction, or denial. In clear and comforting prose, Hanh explains how we are able to blossom from difficult experiences. The book invites readers to look at their suffering through practicing mindfulness. Many mindfulness techniques are outlined, including breathing meditation, mantras, metta (compassion) meditation, and incorporating mindfulness into daily activities.

No Mud, No Lotus was the perfect companion to my MBSR training. Since it is a quick read, I purposefully slowed down – only allowing myself one chapter per day. As with all of Thich Nhat Hanh’s books, I felt like I was having a quiet conversation with a good friend. I imagined a soft-spoken voice reading Thich Nhat Hanh’s introductory quote: “Most people are afraid of suffering. But suffering is a kind of mud to help the lotus flower of happiness grow. There can be no lotus flower without the mud.” This book brought me gratitude for all of the mud that has helped transform me.

Meditation 101

Meditation 101:  Q & A with Dr. Patricia Shutt

What are the fundamentals of meditation?
I teach basic concentration skills to beginners to cultivate discipline in the mind and to become more one-pointed. Our minds are divided during most of our day and jumping from one task to another, often without our permission. We start with practices of awareness of breath, awareness of sensations, and work toward awareness of thoughts and feelings. For some, instruction in using a mantram, which is a short phrase repeated silently, works as a way to harness the wild, restless mind.

How much time should one dedicate to meditation each day?
The formal practice of sitting meditation requires between 20-45 minutes per day. However as one begins to develop a daily practice, they can start off with a shorter duration, maybe 5-10 minutes, and gradually build as concentration improves. One will gradually shift their priorities in life to make the time for meditation as the practice continues.

What is the ideal environment to meditate?
The best environment is right where you are – anywhere and anytime. Any comfortable spot with minimal interruptions will do. Getting caught up in having to have the “right” place, space, and time often leads to putting off the practice. There really is no ”right” or “wrong” environment.

What is the most common misconception people have regarding meditation?
The idea that one must clear their mind or empty their mind is a common misconception in beginning meditation. Many people give up immediately when they discover “monkey mind” – a state of wandering and jumping from thought to thought, is a more typical experience. It takes time and patience to move past that.

Join us for Mindful Mondays at Sacred Treehouse!  Beginning Meditation with Dr. Shutt is held every Monday from 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.  For more information, please call us at 561-278-6033.

Beat The Heat

by Kristina Bergman 

As a South Floridian in the summertime, you know this all too well: whether you’re taking the dog out for a walk, or just trying to get from the front door to the car, it’s nearly impossible to be outside without breaking a sweat!  Sweating out water and other nutrients can leave us feeling tired and dehydrated, which can ruin our summer fun.  Thankfully, Mother Nature doesn’t want us to melt!  To help endure the grueling heat, we’re offered an abundance of the perfect thing to keep us hydrated and full of energy: fruit!  Full of water, vitamins and even fiber, fruit can help us beat the heat and enjoy the summery flavors we love. Cherries, nectarines, berries, honeydew, peaches and plums are all in season.  You can always enjoy fruit on its own or incorporated into your favorite dishes to give them a summer twist: try topping your oatmeal or cereal with berries or slicing up pears or mangos for a salad.  So if you’re feeling the heat this summer, “Don’t sweat it!”  Remember that fruit is a nice refresher.

 

From Illness to Wellness

Most people who know me, know that I am an avid reader of spiritual, psychological and health & wellness books.  A book I frequently use in my work is “Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life” by Marshall Rosenberg, Ph.D.  The title isn’t so appealing to most lay people, but the content is a treasure for all humans who endeavor to live life with fullness and passion.  Don’t get me wrong, it is not about sex, but living according to the practices will certainly improve all relationships, especially intimate ones.  During a recent perusing of the pages (as I often read tidbits from my favorite books each evening), I was caught by a quote that says, “Don’t do anything that is not play.”  And he really means ANYTHING!  I have read those words before, but this time it hit me differently because I’m in a different place in my life and what I consider play has changed dramatically.  We are programmed to “work” hard at everything and believe that having success, fame or a relationship will bring us joy and happiness.  However, those who actually have money, success, fame or great relationships and are truly happy, healthy and fulfilled would probably not chalk it up to hard work alone.  Most would say they loved the journey and had fun.  The connection between emotional wellness and physical health are well known in health psychology and related fields.  Since humans are social animals it is no surprise to know that healthy relationships can provide deep fulfillment and unhealthy relationships can cause deep pain.  Here is an exercise to help you understand the values behind how you choose to spend your time and energy:

  1. Make a list everything you do that you do not consider “play”
  2. Rewrite each item as: “I choose to_________”
  3. Acknowledge the intent behind your choice  and rewrite again as:  “I chose to _____________ because _____________”

So what is the difference between illness and wellness?  It’s as simple as the difference between “I” and “We”.

Dr. Patricia Shutt is Co-Founder and Clinical Psychologist at Therapeutic Oasis of the Palm Beaches in Delray Beach, Florida where she helps clients achieve lifelong wellness.  For more information, call  (561) 278-6033.

10 Easy Ways to Reduce Stress at Work

Even if you are working at your dream job, stress can sap your effectiveness and your enthusiasm.  Much of what people do to reduce stress can cause more harm than good (like smoking or complaining to others.) Here are ten easy ways to reduce the stress reaction brought on by our everyday grind.  They are simple and most of them take less time than changing the ink cartridge in the printer! You can start with adding one a week and soon you will build a daily routine that will change the way you experience your life, both at work and at home.

  1. Start while your car is warming up (the engine that is!) Take a moment to quietly pay attention to your breathing and set an intention to use awareness of breath as a way to remain connected to your body all day.
  2. Leave early enough to take a slow and one-pointed drive to work.  That means no music or phone – just driving.
  3. When at a stoplight or toll, glance outside: notice the sky, trees, and birds and simply connect visually with the movement and flow of nature.
  4. Before exiting your car at work, take a moment to reconnect with your breath, your morning intention, and slowly step into your workplace.
  5. Every time you sit down at your desk, in a meeting, or on the phone, take note of your body and intentionally relax your head, neck, and shoulders. Then, move onto relaxing your belly, hips, and thighs.
  6. Select one or two days each week to eat lunch mindfully, in silence maintaining awareness on eating and allowing all other thoughts to fall away. On the other days take a moment before eating to check in with the body, to prepare it for the meal by relaxing and taking a few conscious breaths and welcoming the meal with gratitude.
  7. At the end of the workday, pause and take note of all you have done that day – you have done enough! Make a quick list of unfinished business and set an intention to let it go for now.
  8. Upon arrival at home, pause while still in the car and take a deep breath, exhaling any remaining work tension and thoughts and set an intention to bring awareness now to your family, your pets, and your home life.
  9. Take a moment to change clothes, making the shift from work to home. If greeted by family members take a moment to pause and greet each one simply sensing their presence and giving each full attention for a moment or two.
  10. End the day with a mindful awareness exercise or a meditation that fosters appreciation, love, and compassion for your self and for others.

 

Dr. Patricia Shutt is Co-Founder and Clinical Psychologist at Therapeutic Oasis of the Palm Beaches.  She is also the owner of Sacred Treehouse in Delray Beach, Florida where she teaches meditation and moderates an 8-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) workshop.  For more information, call  (561) 278-6033.

Is Restricting Food Really OK?

“We don’t keep bread in the house.”     “One serving is enough – kids don’t need seconds.”      “We just have protein and veggies at dinner.”      “Why is my child sneaking food and snacking all the time?!”

Hmmm – at first glance, these may seem like separate, unrelated statements.  There is, however, a common thread and a chain reaction that is in play throughout the scenarios…and it all starts with restriction.  Carb restriction, calorie restriction, food restriction.   If you consider the unrelenting headlines that tell us obesity is an “epidemic”, that individual foods will either kill or save us, and the sneaking messages that lead us to think we’ll only be happy if we are sexy and skinny, then it makes some sense that people are grabbing at the latest food rule (aka, restriction), to take control of their or their kids’ lives.   Yet the more we reach for restriction, the more out of control we become.

Let’s keep it straightforward.  There are some basic side effects of over-controlled under-eating:

  • it confuses body chemistry, triggering it to more readily lose muscle and regain weight as fat
  • it causes feelings of deprivation and depression that often rebound to overeating
  • it creates a lowered self-esteem, and disconnects individuals from their emotions  and sense of well-being
  • it creates irritability, decreases concentration and memory, (especially if carbs are limited) and causes tension in relationships
  • it can disrupt a female’s menstrual cycles
  • it makes exercise ineffective, because there isn’t enough fuel to run your body’s basic processes

So when you feel the need to snack on cookies and chips after the kids have gone to bed, notice if you’ve eaten enough during the day or pulled carbs out of the meal prior.  We can’t function effectively if we are depriving ourselves of enough fuel – and we are destined to swing the pendulum the other direction to try to create balance.

And the next time you feel the emotional tug to try the latest fad diet, label carbs as evil or tell your kids to stop eating, take a deep breath and remember:

Eating is Normal.  Restricting is Ridiculous.   

 Christie Caggiani, RD, LDN, CEDRD is Co-Founder and Registered Dietitian at Therapeutic Oasis of the Palm Beaches in Delray Beach, Florida.

 

 

Say NO to “Fat Talk”!

More often than not, when we see someone who we have not seen in a while, it is not uncommon to make a comment about his or her shape or size. This is clearly not shocking when one considers the world we live in. However, even if body-focused comments are intended as compliments, I challenge each and every one of you to be mindful of body talk. For those struggling with an eating disorder or body image issues, even a positive comment can be misconstrued.

As parents, I implore you to be particularly mindful of your language around food, calories and weight, whether speaking directly to your children or conversing with friends. I will never forget the day my Kindergartener at the time came home from school and reported that a 5th grade boy on the bus told her that calories were “bad.” She innocently responded that we need calories to grow. I can only assume the 5th grade boy developed that belief from some adult in his life. Had I not happened upon that conversation, my daughter may have believed that statement to be fact.

So, let’s begin with new traditions. Let’s comment on how “healthy” or “happy” or “relaxed” our peers look. Let’s focus on learning about how friends are doing on the inside and get curious about their summer vacations. Let’s redirect conversations around fat and calories. Some of you may even be bold enough to say, “NO FAT TALK.” It’s up to you to take the power back, and one by one, we can slowly reshape the society we live in.

 Dr. Nicole Friedman is a Co-Founder and Clinical Psychologist at Therapeutic Oasis of the Palm Beaches in Delray Beach, Florida.