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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

1 Strategy for Everyday Mental Help

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Apr 9th 2009

woman breathing We all have days where our brain short circuits? Life can be overwhelming at times to the point of dysfunction. The other day I found myself walking in circles in my living room as part of me was pulled to wash the dishes, while another was being drawn to writing an email to a colleague before I forgot, while another part of me was hearing my wife asking to help out with something. My ability to discern in that moment was lost and I literally walked in each direction for a moment making a full circle...twice! I was anything, but in the here and now and it was really activating distress in me. Luckily for me, I have seen hundreds of patients who have experienced the same thing so I didn't feel so alone.

So what did I do?

One of the continued aspirations and practices in my life is to incorporate mindfulness into every day. The most fundamental way for me to do this is by grabbing onto something that is in the present moment and being able to sit back and observe it for a few moments. In this particular moment, I acknowledged that my mind was scattered and I even said to myself "scattered" and just for a few moments brought my attention to my breathing. I rested my attention on it as it came in and out of my body. In doing this practice I was able to collect all the disperse parts of my mind  and then ask myself, "What is most important right now?" A few more breaths allowed the answer to emerge, "go attend to your wife, you can get to the rest after."

Many of us go throughout the day or our entire lives rarely aware of this most vital function of living. When I talk about the breath with people I often hear "but the breath is so boring." Author and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction founder Jon Kabat-Zinn once said, just hold your nose and your mouth and see how long it takes for your breath to become really interesting. Usually people get a kick out of that.

TRY: See if you can schedule 5 minutes in your calendar per day to just focus on your breath. You can focus at the tip of the nose, just noticing the varying sensations of the nose as the breath comes in and out, or you can focus at the belly, noticing it expand and contract. When the mind wanders off, as it will, notice what it wandered to, and then gently bring the focus back to your breath. If a week goes by and you've forgotten to do this, don't worry about it, you are now present and can invite yourself to do it now. This is a very forgiving practice. Schedule it in your calendar if that is helpful.

As always, interact below with comments, resources, or questions. Your additions here provide a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

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