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

Open Your Eyes and Alleviate the Winter Blues

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Dec 17th 2012

happy older coupleAs I was driving into my office today ruminating on a recent event that struck me as disappointing something happened that reminded me how easy it is to get caught up in small stuff that just doesn’t really matter. This small stuff left unchecked can lead to a real cycle into the blues. Los Angeles is known for not having seasons, but there is a strip of Westwood Blvd that is lined with maple trees that turn fantastic colors during the fall and beginning of winter. As my mind was caught up in the past, suddenly awoke to the true beauty that was right in front of me. I was lucky, but we can train ourselves to be lucky more often.

The way your mind perceives any given moment is through the lens of the past. It reaches back to your past experience to make sense of the present and anticipate the future. 

The way we influence this automatic perception is by creating experiences in the present moment that get logged in short-term memory and then get referenced in future present moments. 

As you look back on your day thus far, ask yourself, where was the good today? No matter whether you noticed it in the moment or not, your reflection right now will log it into your short term memory. 

To make this even more salient, when you remember where the good was see if you can make the memory as vivid as possible and get a sense of the feeling that’s there. Do you notice some calm, joy, gratitude, love, or happiness? 

If we don’t slow down in life to reflect on where the good is we’re depending on our brains to find it and that’s not what the brain is wired to do. 

The brain is biased toward negative and fearful events to keep us safe. It’s more important to the brain to look for danger than it is for the good in life because danger comes first. If we get run over by a car looking for the good isn’t going to do us a whole lot of good. We don’t need to spend as much intentional or unintentional time focusing on negative events, the brain will do that for us already. 

The brain is a passive organ, we need to take the reins and be intentional with this practice like you may have just done (If you didn’t take the opportunity a moment ago, why not take 30 seconds to do it now?). This can help us shift our mind from the routine of negative reactivity that drive the blues and open up to the wonders that are all around. 

A regular practice at the end of the day of looking for the good will not only serve you well, but will likely lead to a much better night’s sleep. 

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates 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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