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

How stressed out are you? 2 brain nuggets to help you break free today

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Sep 1st 2008

man holding two ends of an electrical plugA few years ago I conducted a national study asking people to find an object that they found meaningful and to spend time with it for 5 minutes a day for 5 days a week for 3 weeks. People chose family heirlooms, religious objects, nature-based objects, or even intangible objects like memories. At the end of the 3 weeks the results were staggering. Participants in the study showed significant reductions in stress and increases in a variety of areas of well-being.

 Here was the intervention specifically:

  • Choose an object, either tangible or intangible (e.g., family heirloom, religious object, memory, cloud, tree).

  • Spend at least 3 minutes a day sitting, lying or standing, checking in with your body. You can do a mini body scan by just bringing attention to your toes, feet, legs, hips, torso, arms, and head.

  • Then bring your attention to your breath and just notice that it naturally flows in and out

  • Shift your attention to this object and begin to be present with it. If it is tangible you may run your hands or fingers around it and notice the sensations. If intangible tune your sense into it, just being with it without reaction.

During the study, I knew I was onto something, but what was the secret ingredient here? What was it about this practice that allowed people to make such significant changes?

I continued the study and conducted interviews to see if I could boil down what the X factor was in this change. Time and time again it came down to the word – connection.

 Somewhere along the path our lives so many of us become disconnected with ourselves. We’ve become a culture that is constantly looking outside of ourselves to connect. We stay distracted and disconnected thinking that if we can just get that next gadget, that new piece of clothing, that better car…then we’ll be happy and at peace. Well, thousands of years of wisdom and more recent science and research are saying, “that’s just not the case”. Artistotle said “No one would choose a friendless existence on condition of having all the other things in the world.”

So try a couple things today:

  1. Try the intervention I set up above. See if you can practice it at least 5 minutes a day. Don’t take the research’s word for it, try it from your own experience. We may look at a menu and say “Wow, that looks delicious”, but it’s not until we eat the food that we really know it was the right dish for us.

  2. Take stock of social connections -   Who do you spend most of your time with? Who is most supportive to you in this life? Do you spend most of your time with those who are not that supportive to your well-being or with those who are most supportive to you? Try and re-organize your time to spend most time with those who are most supportive.

The point here is to begin to connect with yourself, the qualities within you that are most meaningful, and the people who support you. Does this make sense to you or do you have anything to add? Please share your thoughts, comments, and questions. Thank you!

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.

Reader Comments
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Great techique - Rajesh Yedida - Sep 2nd 2008

Its a great technique. This is a very ancient meditation technique. Its called "Vipasana". There are many other name too but basically the techique is to sit calmly and observe our breathe. After some time we should observe the sensations in our body from head to toe. We shouldn't think about any particular sensation but just observe it. If we can do this meditation twice a day we feel great.


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