We had a lot of discussion in class. Many people talked about how much difficulty they had making a habit of exercising or of avoiding certain eating habits. We came up with some points to help with these.
Some principles involved in changing a habit are:
- The habit reduces discontent and that is what reinforces the behavior. The greater the reduction in discontent and the faster the reduction the greater the reinforcement.
- Negative emotions increase discontent and so we need to find ways of dealing with them that do not involve the habit we want to change.
- Pressure tends to increase discontent, so if the habit causes an increase in pressure then the discontent will come back quickly. We need to make sure that we find new habits that decrease pressure in the long run.
- Sympathetic arousal also tends to increase discontent. So when we are feeling tense, stressed or in pain we may be more likely to engage in the habit. We need to work on healthier ways to deal with those.
- We need to practice experiencing discontent without having our body respond with tension or strain. We develop discontent tolerance.
Many of us have habits we think we would be better without. Usually we have tried to change those, but too often without long term success. In this and the next two classes we will be looking at habits, the ways that habits develop, and methods and techniques for changing habits effectively and sustainably.
In our first session we will explore habits and the processes which create and maintain them. Continue reading Changing Habits – I
I am taking a risk here and using a summary of a report rather than digging into the report itself. However, the summary is pretty damning and explains why medical care costs so much. (If I find that the article has misrepresented the death rates between drug group and placebo then I will post a correction.)
Anger is a difficult emotion to deal with in ourselves. People I work with usually have similar questions about anger and I answer some of those here.
These answers incorporate some of the contemplative skills I discussed in an earlier post.
What is the purpose of anger?
I work with many people who struggle with a sense of being uneasy, fearful, nervous, anxious, restless, on edge, tense, etc. Essentially these are all fear in some form or another. Relaxation exercises do not help because while they may give temporary relief, the fear comes right back.
This is caused by feedback among several brain areas. I will give a simple explanation of that here, as well as a simple and effective solution. An podcast version of this is available on Soundcloud. Continue reading Its Safe to Feel Fear
I had a request for a shorter version of the butter melting video and I added a relaxing audio to it. Also played around with a short intro to get more of a hang of using the software. The intention is to use the video to help you experience a sense of tension melting away and then rest in that relaxed state which is both recharging and healing. Enjoy!
If anyone is interested the software I am using for the video is Camtasia 2
I posted this at the request of a patient who thought it would help her relax.
For those who are not my patient the instructions are to imagine your body is like a lump of butter sitting in the sun soaking up the warmth of the sun’s rays and gradually softening.
It may be the most boring video on the Web.
I did not have time to edit it much but I will add a suitably boring, I mean relaxing, audio accompaniment soon.
I have had a few people with questions about how to use their imagination to evoke beneficial physical or emotional changes. There were a couple of points that they were struggling with. One was whether what they were imagining needed to look similar to what was going on in their body. Another was a tendency to get concerned if their image changed as they continued to practice.
To address these I will use a metaphor of a computer. Continue reading Imagination and Healing: A Few Points
One of the common themes I hear from addicts is how they experience their mind as hijacked. They are on their way to obtain drugs and the whole time they are telling themselves “Turn around!!! This is crazy!!! I can’t do this!!!” But their body is under the control of something other than themselves. I have also heard this from people who are addicted to behaviors other than just drug use, such as eating disorders or gambling. How can someone be a prisoner in their own body, watching in horror as they engage in behaviors that are abhorrent to them? To understand this let’s shift gears and look at the jewel wasp. Continue reading Addiction, the Brain, and the Jewel Wasp
I have had a couple of patients recently who described their intense emotional pain after hearing people make derogatory comments at them while they were shopping for food or in other public places. I think its obscene how it seems OK in our society to bash fat people for being fat. You’re not supposed to bash people because of their gender, race, sexual orientation or whatever (which is good), but if someone is fat then its OK (which is just wrong).
I want to explain why making people feel guilty about being fat just makes things worse, This has nothing to do with being politically correct, and everything to do with neuroendocrinology. Along the way I hope to give you some insights into the way the body deals with weight and fat that may help you understand how we can attain and maintain a healthy weight. Here we go. Continue reading Stress and Obesity, part I
Its been an extremely busy week. Dealing with pain was one of the themes and so I’ll address that and leave the others for next week. Continue reading Healing Imagery
This is a somewhat extended meditation technique that goes into a bit of detail about a method for training the mind to be able to disengage from repetitive or irritating thoughts. The particular focus in the meditation is to help disengage from thoughts about comfort food.
The technique is may not be helpful for dealing with thoughts about using drugs or alcohol. It will not be helpful for dealing with physical cravings. Those require different techniques. Continue reading Disengaging from Repetitive Thoughts, Especially About Comfort Food
There are many ways of using meditation to deal with pain. Many of them involve some form of distraction, placing your attention elsewhere. However, often our attention can be stuck focusing on the pain. In that case it can help to go with that and use the fact that every sensory experience, even pain, will vary from moment to moment.
This meditation technique help you reduce the perception of pain by paying selective attention to rapid and subtle decreases in the level of pain. At first the reductions are small and short, but with practice they will become larger and longer. As we practice this we train our brain to become better at reducing pain.
We tend to hold our bodies more tense than we need to and releasing that excess tension can help us relax and feel more comfortable. It can also help relieve pain, especially musculoskeletal pain.
To use this technique think of something soft and imagine one part of the body taking on that quality of softness more and more with each exhalation. After a few breaths pause and note how your body feels. Then either repeat that with the same part of the body, or allow a different part of the body to come to mind and let that part get softer for a few breaths. Continue to do this with various parts of your body shifting from one to another in a somewhat playful manner.