November Newsletter

Welcome to my November Newsletter!

Happy Thanksgiving! What an exhausting time of year this can be! Even if you love the holidays and enjoy robust health, the drop in temperature, colds and flus, and general busy-ness of the season can make it difficult to motivate. If you suffer from chronic illness, this time of year can also feel depleting. Please don’t despair! In this month’s newsletter, you will find…
  • The first installment in my series on Chronic Illness. Chronic, debilitating, and auto-immune disorders seem to be the norm for many nowadays. Even if you do not suffer, you may have a loved one struggling with illness, and my article can help give you some insight and understanding into their experience. Don’t worry – it is not all doom and gloom! Yes, I want to explain and understand hardships, AND I also want to give you a path forward, so read ahead for coping strategies.
  • Also an antidote to illness and stress, you might enjoy knowing more about the Psychology of Laughter. Not only is laughter powerful medicine, it also burns calories, relaxes the body, boosts your immune system, and promotes heart health! In this spirit, I’ve attached some comedy clips for you to enjoy, and I encourage you to watch some of your favorite comedians.
  • Yet another impactful way to support your body is through Mindful Exercise. Meet Owen Dockham, founder and owner of Live Oak Strength. His unique, science-backed approach to exercise and aging well, supports people at all fitness levels, from yoked-out gym rat to Sedentary Sally.
As always, I hope you find something here to brighten your days. After all, life is too short just to survive, that’s why I help people THRIVE!

FEATURED ARTICLE…

Chronic Illness and Mental Health Part 1: The Unpredictability of Chronic Illness

Living with a chronic illness can be overwhelming, both physically and emotionally. You may deal with varying degrees of disability; from brain fog that affects your ability to concentrate and remember, to intense pain that affects your joints and ability to move freely in your body. You may even have “wandering” symptoms, which means that you experience different symptoms from day-to-day or week-to-week, and are never sure what to expect from your body. Sometimes symptoms might even be vague and hard to describe; even though you know something is off in your body, you are not experiencing the vitality you once did.

Continue Reading


ANOTHER POINT OF VIEW…

My friend and colleague, Owen Dockham is a certified personal trainer, the founder of Live Oak Strength in the East Bay, California, and co-founder of EverStrongSF in San Francisco in the Lower Haight. (A possible sister location may be opening up in your area of California soon. Stay tuned!) I first attended a fitness class run by Owen in 2011 and have followed him as he expanded to open his own studio offering a super-safe, amazingly effective way to build muscle, strengthen joints, and improve bone density. I started this “Super-Slow” weight lifting workout in October 2016 when I was in a lot of joint and muscle pain and my body was not cooperating with other types of exercise. I have been at it once a week ever since. Did I mention this workout is only once, or maximum twice a week for 20 minutes?! Yep, that’s it! A major component of this exercise is that the muscles need to rest so that they can properly repair and strengthen. I believe in this workout so strongly as I have seen it help already buff people get more muscle tone and definition and senior citizens able to use this method to stay mobile, healthy, and minimize body pain. I continue to learn so much from Owen and his workout protocol. Another selling point for me is that this method is science-backed and based in research. (You can read more about it in the book Body by Science, if you’re interested). To learn more about Owen or high-intensity resistance training, check out his websites.

DID YOU KNOW…

You have certainly heard the phrase, “Laughter is the best medicine!” and research shows us this is true. From lowering stress hormones to momentarily distracting you from painful experiences, laughter provides many health and quality-of-life benefits. You don’t have to take my word for it: check out these articles on the medicine of laughter and learn for yourself how powerful this tool can be. And the next time you need a boost, find a way to evoke a big belly laugh! Remember, it’s great for your health.
SPEAKING OF THE MEDICINE OF LAUGHTER…
Speaking of the medicine of laughter, I am a huge comedy fan. My husband and I love seeing comedians perform live and attend comedy shows whenever we can. I encourage you to brainstorm a few ways you can bring more laughter into your life. For inspiration, check out these brief comedy clips and see what tickles you. (Brian Regan is a personal, long-time favorite of mine. I laugh until I cry – the fun kind.) Enjoy!

JOIN ME ON INSTAGRAM…


Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram. I post a few times a week, so follow @drbando for tips, encouragement, and suggestions to help you thrive.


WANT MORE?

My recent articles, guided meditations, and practices are always available with an audio option – all for free! If you would like to enhance your mindfulness practice, experience this month’s or any recent offerings, please visit either my YouTube or Soundcloud pages.


LIFE’S TOO SHORT TO JUST SURVIVE.
THAT’S WHY I HELP PEOPLE THRIVE
I hope you enjoyed this article! If you would like to become a subscriber to my monthly newsletter, you can do so by clicking the SUBSCRIBE button at the top of the page.
Amanda Gale-Bando, Ph.D.

Chronic Illness and Mental Health Part 1: The Unpredictability of Chronic Illness

Chronic Illness and Mental Health Part 1: The Unpredictability of Chronic Illness

Living with a chronic illness can be overwhelming, both physically and emotionally. You may deal with varying degrees of disability; from brain fog that affects your ability to concentrate and remember, to intense pain that affects your joints and ability to move freely in your body. You may even have “wandering” symptoms, which means that you experience different symptoms from day-to-day or week-to-week, and are never sure what to expect from your body. Sometimes symptoms might even be vague and hard to describe; even though you know something is off in your body, you are not experiencing the vitality you once did.

Listen to the audio version of this article on Soundcloud or YouTube.

When your body is in pain or compromised in some way, it can be physically draining. Your immune system may be working hard to try to keep up, and physical exhaustion, or just plain feeling sluggish, is a common experience. After a while, this tends to take an emotional toll.

I don’t know about you, but after a few days of having a bad cold or the flu, I feel emotionally vulnerable and start to wonder if I’m feeling depressed. This is because when we are sick, our bodies adopt the posture and functioning of someone whose mental health is compromised. You may hunch over, need to rest in bed often, find daily tasks more difficult, or find yourself zoning out and unable to focus. When these types of sickness symptoms happen, our brain, which picks up a lot of information from our body, thinks we are depressed, anxious, or in some way emotionally unhappy. It can become a struggle to maintain a balanced mood when your body is working against it.

If this is you, don’t despair; there is help for those living with chronic illness, and improving your quality of life is within reach. First, we will look at reasons chronic illness is difficult to cope with – the more you understand, the better equipped you are to handle the problem. Then, we will jump into coping strategies to increase your sense of well-being and quality of life.

UNPREDICTABILITY

If you suffer from an illness that causes your symptoms to change and rotate, you are no stranger to unpredictability. There is nothing more frustrating than not knowing how you will physically feel when you wake up in the morning: not knowing how this will affect your ability to engage during the day ahead.

For example, some people experience joint or muscle pain that comes and goes in varying intensities. On some days, they are able to walk and hike, but on others, walking from the parking lot to a restaurant is painful, and this affects their ability to make plans with friends and loved ones. Imagine hearing of a concert you would love to attend, and then not knowing whether you will be able to walk to your seat or stand and enjoy the music.

The unpredictability of symptoms makes it nearly impossible to plan ahead. Your social life may suffer, and relationships can take a toll if you repeatedly cancel plans at the last minute because of unforeseen physical symptoms. Even clothing can be a problem for some. Clothes can fit one week, and then become tight and pinching the next, due to swelling and bloating, or they can become loose and hanging because of unwanted weight loss.

You may have to continually ask yourself questions that healthy people do not give a second thought:

  • Will walking or standing be so painful that you must think ahead to make sure you can park close enough wherever you travel?
  • Are you able to fit into and wear comfortable clothes, or will finding something that fits be an added task and stressor?
  • Will you be able to focus at work and engage in a meeting, or forget what you wanted to contribute and not be able to participate articulately?
  • Are you tired and counting the hours until you can rest again?

Being unable to predict how your body will feel or function from day-to-day adds the unwanted burden of thinking through everything you do. When you feel well, you take for granted all the tasks and situations that are automated. It’s like moving to a strange home and having to learn where everything is. Instead of getting up and starting your day, you must think about where the toothbrush and toothpaste are, where you put your morning coffee mug, where to sit and settle in for breakfast instead of already having a favorite seat, etc. Every decision requires thought, and although each decision is not taxing on its own, when you put them all together, it is exhausting! This is similar to what unpredictability of symptoms from a chronic illness can feel like, day after day.

HOW TO COPE

 

SELF-COMPASSION

When loved ones you care about are in pain, your natural desire is to soften. You talk in soothing tones, try to be helpful, maybe put a gentle hand on their shoulder, or offer a hug. You instinctively understand that being caring is what is needed when someone is struggling. However, most of us often don’t apply this same understanding to ourselves.

When you are having a tough time, do you respond by telling yourself to “buck up” and “push through”, not wanting to ask for help, while berating yourself for having a challenging time in the first place? If so, you are not alone. Self-criticism is rampant in our world, and this is unfortunate because not only does this make pain more difficult to tolerate, it also often slows our progress and prevents clear problem solving.

If you’d like to understand this better, try this little exercise: Take out a pen and paper and write down some of the things that you say to yourself when you are not being kind.

My favorites: “You are so stupid!” “Geez, you can’t do anything. What a failure.” “You are so ugly; you should be ashamed. Just look at you.”

Without censoring, write down those phrases you use to tell yourself you are unworthy and undeserving of love and respect.

Now, close your eyes and imagine a chair in front of you. Imagine someone you love dearly just came and sat down in this chair. Try to picture this person vividly, and feel the sense of love and gratitude you have for this person well up inside of you. Now, tell the person the phrases you use to berate yourself but direct the words toward your loved one. If you tell yourself you are a failure, say to your loved one that he or she is a failure. Use the tone and emphasis you use toward yourself and don’t hold back. Imagine your loved one receiving your words and watch their reaction. What happens? How do they feel? How do you feel?

I tried this exercise in a workshop once, and I couldn’t get past the first few words. In my imagination, my loved one started crying, hunched over and horrified by the hurtful words I hurled toward him. I couldn’t even go on. Now, imagine, this is what you have been doing to yourself.

When illness happens, you are compromised. You cannot function at 100% and perform as you do when you are feeling healthy. When you are in this state, you need compassion more than ever: It does not make sense to kick yourself when you are down. That only puts you in more pain, and you feel greater defeat and inability to cope.

Replacing self-criticism with a compassionate gesture or words can soften the blow, allow you to release the pressure valve, and help you gain the strength and confidence to cope.

Imagine not being able to concentrate or perform as well as you would like and rather than saying the words you identified above, instead, you place a soft hand over your heart, or gently hold your other hand, and say something sweet, such as, “Oh sweetheart, I’m so sorry you’re suffering in this moment.” Sound awkward? That’s a sign you need some practice!

Dr. Kristen Neff developed Mindful Self Compassion, a set of skills to practice changing your harsh self-stance to one of love, gentleness, understanding, and of course, compassion. On her website, she generously provides guided meditations and suggested practices. If you would like to learn more, check out her offerings and start gently practicing. https://self-compassion.org/ Also, listen to my guided meditation on feeling supported and connected at the end of this article.

CLEAR, UNAPOLOGETIC COMMUNICATION

When you are compromised by illness, it is a common experience to feel shame. Embarrassment that you are not functioning as you previously did, or as you or others expect, can get in the way of asking for help or being clear about your abilities and limits.

I have a friend who, unbeknownst to me, was suffering from a severe autoimmune disorder. For a while, I experienced her as rigid, demanding, and defensive, and did not want to spend much time around her as a result. When she finally (and tearfully) told me she was sick and suffering and was acting differently because she was embarrassed and did not want to ask for help, all of my irritation and intolerance melted and I was filled with compassion for her. Instead of wanting to check out of the relationship, her communication made me want to know more, be more understanding, and offer any help I could.

When my friend clearly and directly communicated with me what was going on with her health, how it was affecting her, and what she needed, I was no longer in the dark. I was now provided with context if she canceled plans last minute or needed to rest instead of going on a hike.

Being candid about what you want and need, without apologizing for yourself, and simply stating how things are, can be empowering. If you can put aside the judgments of how you think you “should” feel or what you “should” be doing, and instead respond to the facts of the situation and what you need and want, everybody is happier, including you.

If you are embarrassed or feel shame because you are sick and you respond by hiding (the action urge for shame and embarrassment), you are reinforcing the message that you should be ashamed of yourself. When you are sick, and you feel embarrassed, but then you ask for help anyway, set limits, or let people know what you are struggling with, you give yourself the message that you deserve to be cared for, acknowledged, and that this sickness is not your fault.

When you are coping with chronic illness, communication can prove difficult, especially if symptoms wax and wane in an unpredictable fashion. Because of this, you may not know how to describe how you feel, what to ask for, or what limits to set. In this case, just stating that you are unsure what is going on with you or what to ask for can be clarifying to your loved ones and validating to yourself. The clearer you can be about your current experience, without judgment, the better able you will be to set appropriate limits and gain support, connection, and understanding.

 

Guided Mindfulness Practice for Finding Connection and Support

Listen to the audio version of this practice on Soundcloud or YouTube.

(Modified from DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets, Second Edition, by Marsha M. Linehan.)

An effective way to participate in this meditation is not to get too caught up in thinking about the words. Rather, settle into your breath, your body, and let the words gently float through you, allowing yourself to be just as you are in this moment.

Start by noticing your breath in your body. You do not have to alter or change your breathing. Your breath is perfect as it is. Just notice the feeling of your inhalation and exhalation and how your whole body is involved in this movement of breath.

Focus your attention on your feet touching the ground. Consider the kindness of the ground holding you up, providing a path for you to get to other things, not letting you fall away from everything else.

Focus your attention on your body touching the chair you sit in. Consider how the chair accepts you totally, holds you up, supports your back, and keeps you from falling onto the floor.

Focus your attention on the clothes on your body. Consider the touch of your clothes holding you, surrounding and keeping you warm and comfortable.

If you are indoors, consider the walls in the room. They keep out the wind and the cold and the rain. Think of how the walls are connected to you through the floor and the air in the room. Experience your connection to the walls that provide you with a secure place to do things.

Now, focus your attention on where your body touches an object: floor or ground, air molecules, a chair or armrest, your clothes, you choose. Try to see all the ways you are connected to and accepted by that object. Consider the function of that object in relation to you. That is, consider what the object does for you. Consider its kindness in doing that. Experience the sensation of touching the object, and focus your entire attention on that kindness and notice if you begin to feel a sense of being connected, loved, or cared for arising in your heart.

Continue to notice objects you are connected to and supported by throughout your day. Whenever you are needing a bit more support and comfort, see if you can identify ways that objects around you are kindly providing their support. Breathe this support in and feel connected to the world around you.


October Newsletter

Welcome to my October Newsletter!

As we approach the end of October, we are now deep into Autumn; falling leaves, hot drinks, and sweaters abound. With the change in environment, and more darkness than light each 24 hours, we can experience fatigue and a sense of turning inwards. At the same time, all of our responsibilities remain, and energy is required to keep up with the typical pace of life, all while being aware that the planning of holiday festivities is just around the corner. While many of us enjoy the Fall, we may also find ourselves depleted, and motivation to maintain healthy behaviors may wane. If you are feeling a dip in your get-up-and-go, don’t despair. Take a breath (or three), let go of self-judgment, and read on for some helpful skills and strategies to keep you moving in a forward direction, even if it is at a slower, more gentle pace than the previous months. Remember, the turtle won the race.

In this issue, you will find a link to follow me on Instagram. “Dr. Bando” is new to Instagram and I am having so much fun posting up encouragement and useful links. You will also find an article related to body image and weight loss plus how to reinforce yourself in a way that supports lasting change. While you’re here, meet my colleague, Jennifer Joffe, health coach extraordinaire. Her story is inspiring and her work may help change your life for the better (think big!). Lastly, if you are interested in nutrition, lifestyle, and aging well and you’ve not yet heard of Dr. Rhonda Patrick, do yourself a favor and check out her summary of the research on sugar. You’re welcome.

Thank you so much for reading. I put out this monthly newsletter for no charge and develop all of the pieces on my own time. I do this with loving care because my hope is that something here nourishes you and adds joy, hope, and vibrancy to your life. Happy exploring!


FEATURED ARTICLE…

Body Image and Weight Loss Part 3: Reinforcement

It is nearly impossible to turn on your TV, go online, or even go out in public without being bombarded by society’s idea of the ideal body. It is not only frustrating, but it can also be extremely discouraging. Experiencing this way of thinking on a regular basis can reinforce a “box thinking” mindset, that there is a particular way that each of us is supposed to look. This also makes it harder to take those steps towards change. Luckily, there is a way to overcome the feelings of stagnation and defeat with reinforcement.

Continue Reading


ANOTHER POINT OF VIEW…

Jennifer Joffe is an Integrative Health Coach who focuses on self-love and compassion to help you realize the weight and lifestyle that best feeds you. She, herself, has lost over 100 pounds and coaches others to achieve a healthy self-image and develop a body in which you can move and feel free. Her style is no-nonsense, down-to-earth and compassionate. She is in the trenches with you. Jennifer has been there and done that and receives her clients’ stories and struggles with nonjudgment, fierce encouragement, and accountability. You can read about Jennifer’s inspiring story here, find out more about her health coaching program, Project Healthy Body here, and if you do some Google searching, can probably find a video of her Today Show appearance. Yep, she is that fierce and inspiring. Of my clients who have opted into her program over the years, they have all reported significant health benefits, more insight into what drives them and who they want to be, and overall feel empowered, healthy and able to enjoy life.

DID YOU KNOW…

If you ask functional medicine doctors and most holistic health practitioners, they will tell you it is no coincidence that flu and cold season exists from October through February. The reason? SUGAR! We end October with Halloween candy and roll right into overstuffed Thanksgiving followed by cookie season, and then ride out the hangover through Valentine’s Day when chocolate is the traditional gift. If you L-O-V-E sugar on the holidays, you have no judgment coming from me. Our environment is not set up for us to sidestep sugar. It takes tons of resolve, pre-planning and careful self-guided reinforcement to avoid this tempting and very addictive trap. Maybe you are toying with the idea of cutting back on sugar and could use a little push? Perhaps you haven’t been thinking about it but would like to know more? Check out this informative video from Dr. Rhonda Patrick, who has a Ph.D. in Biomedical Science and is a passionate educator teaching people how to live and age well. I have also provided a link to her website where she lists two pages of articles you can click and read about the effects of sugar on the body. Once you know, you know


JOIN ME ON INSTAGRAM…


I recently started posting to Instagram and I’d love your comments! Follow me here and comment away: What do you like or not like? Do certain images or messages resonate? Do you find there is a piece missing or have a question and would like to know more? Your comments and interests drive my posts and writing. The more I hear from you about what works and what doesn’t, the better able I am to deliver high-quality, useful goodies. So, check out @drbando on Instagram and I’ll see you there!


WANT MORE?

My recent articles and guided meditations and practices are now available with an audio option – all for free! If you would like to enhance your mindfulness practice, experience this month’s or any recent offerings, please visit my Soundcloud page.


LIFE’S TOO SHORT TO JUST SURVIVE.
THAT’S WHY I HELP PEOPLE THRIVE
I hope you enjoyed this article! If you would like to become a subscriber to my monthly newsletter, you can do so by clicking the SUBSCRIBE button at the top of the page.
Amanda Gale-Bando, Ph.D.

Body Image and Weight Loss Part 3: Reinforcement

Body Image and Weight Loss Part 3: Reinforcement

Listen to the audio version of this article

It is nearly impossible to turn on your TV, go online, or even go out in public without being bombarded by society’s idea of the ideal body. It is not only frustrating, but it can also be extremely discouraging. Experiencing this way of thinking on a regular basis can reinforce a “box thinking” mindset, that there is a particular way that each of us is supposed to look. This also makes it harder to take those steps towards change. Luckily, there is a way to overcome the feelings of stagnation and defeat with reinforcement.

When it comes to Body Image and Weight Loss, becoming proficient in the following four skill sets will help you achieve your goal of mastery and confidence over your health and body weight:

    • AWARENESS
    • NONJUDGMENT/CURIOSITY
    • REINFORCEMENT
    • SELF-COMPASSION

I discussed Awareness as it pertains to Body Image and Weight Loss in the first part of this series, and in the second part, I reviewed Nonjudgment and Curiosity. In this installment, we will take a look at Reinforcement and its role in keeping you on the path to positive, lasting change.

REINFORCEMENT

Years of research and over a decade of my own professional and personal practice have confirmed the time-tested wisdom: reinforcement is the most effective way to achieve lasting change. When you want to shift your behavior, defining the steps needed to move toward your goals and reinforcing those steps repeatedly, will help you achieve the results you desire.

At times, my clients will ask, “Am I supposed to ignore what is wrong and just focus on the ‘positive,’ pretending that everything is fine?” My answer is a resounding, “No!” You need to acknowledge problems as they appear in your life because awareness of what is happening and what you do and do not want is the first step to change. Once you have this nonjudgmental awareness and are clear on your goals, it can be defeating, punishing, and stall your progress to continue focusing all of your attention on what is wrong or difficult to change. Reinforcement is not about ignoring problems as they appear, it is about focusing your attention and intention toward what works to optimize your capabilities for change.

Reward, not punishment, helps produce and maintain lasting change. This means you get to be kind and encouraging toward yourself when you do what works, instead of looking for the mistakes and giving yourself an internal lashing. When you use reinforcement for what is working, as opposed to punishing yourself for slip-ups or relapses, you empower yourself to move forward, and you ignite motivation.

Another point to remember about the reinforcement-change experience is that change is not a linear process. Progress does not happen in a straight, upward moving way; in fact, you will almost certainly experience multiple ups and downs. No one can go from a lifestyle of eating nothing but processed foods to eating healthy, whole foods with no struggles or setbacks. Change does not work like that. Most of the time, you will go back to engaging in behaviors that you would like to stop. Even if you follow behavior-change protocols to a “T”, you will find yourself having urges or engaging in old, ineffective behaviors at some point. You will crave and possibly eat that food that drains your energy, blow off that walk to watch TV, and stay up later getting less rest than you know you need.

Going back to old behaviors is part of the process of change, not failure! Moving momentarily backward can be perceived as a sign that progress is happening. You are headed in the right direction and engaging in old, ineffective behaviors is part of making the changes you want. Knowing that this is how the process works will allow you to stay encouraged even when things don’t go exactly as you had hoped.

You can anticipate this process and give yourself a break when it happens. Instead of judging yourself, giving yourself a mental slap with harsh self-critical thinking, or giving up, you can reinforce yourself for noticing when you have gotten off track and decide the most effective step to take next. “Failure” is an opportunity to notice, take a small step toward the path you want to be on, and reinforce! Practice this over and over and over until the practice becomes what you automatically do.

The more you engage in this cycle, the sooner you will notice lasting change happen and stick. Remember, going back to your old ways is a part of the process of change, and does not signal failure! In the moment you notice you have relapsed, you can then make a new choice about what to do next. The more you practice becoming aware that you have reverted to old ways, reinforce your noticing (being gentle with yourself and without judgment), and get back on track, the sooner you will be on course and more quickly reach your goals.

 

REINFORCEMENT PRACTICE

For a guided practice in reinforcement, listen to this Meditation on Motivation and strengthen your reinforcement muscle.

To stay motivated and moving toward goals that you value, you must build the muscle of Reinforcement. Finding what you are already doing that is working, or taking very small steps forward, and then rewarding those actions creates sustainable motivation for change. Think of it this way: punishment extinguishes motivation and reinforcement creates, ignites, awakens and maintains motivation. Where you have reinforcement, you can create motivation.

Let’s practice building this muscle:

Start with noticing your breathing. You do not have to change or alter your breath. Simply notice that you are inhaling and exhaling. Pay attention to where in your physical body you feel your breath.

Now, for the next three to five breaths, pay attention to where you feel your breath in your physical body and when your mind wanders away or zones out, gently bring your attention back to your breath.

When you notice yourself wander and bring you attention back to your breath, you can think of this as a weight lifting rep, or an exercise to build your ability to put your attention where you want it.

Now, let’s go further. Using this idea of placing the mind where you want it to be in the moment, recall one thing you did in the past day that was effective. Unless you achieved a huge goal in the past day, this exercise requires you to let go of judgments and find where you were effective. Do not dismiss anything for not being “good” enough or “big” enough. If you were tired and you got up on time, that is an accomplishment. If you felt depressed and did not want to get out of bed but you took a shower, perhaps that was effective. It does not matter how big or small you think this action was, take a moment and pick one effective action you engaged in over the past day.

When you have that behavior in mind, reinforce it. You can reinforce this behavior a number of ways: you can reinforce with self-talk, such as, “Good job,” or “I did it,” or “Nice!” Remember, your focus is on what you did well and reinforcing it. If your mind wanders to telling you that it wasn’t good enough, your practice is to gently bring your focus back to what you did well and reinforce it. You may also reinforce your behavior through soothing touch. Maybe if feels soothing to place your hands over your heart center and notice the warmth, or one hand over the other hand, or gently cup your face with both hands. This is touch that feels loving and sweet. Again, when your mind wanders to you or your behavior not being good enough, gently bring your attention back to what you did well and reinforce it.

This is the practice of increasing your motivation in a way that is sustainable and reliable. You can practice this every day – find one thing you did well and practice turning your mind toward noticing what you accomplished and reinforcing it. When your mind goes toward judgments about you or your behavior not measuring up, this is punishment. It will extinguish your motivation and ability to move forward. It’s not wrong, this is just what minds do, they wander, and they come up with judgments. Your task is to calmly notice when this happens and bring your attention back to reinforcing your accomplishment. Practice, practice, practice this and you will notice your motivation grow and your ability to take more steps toward your goals increase.


Emotional Hygiene: Say Goodbye to Box Thinking and Emotional Buildup


Listen to the audio version of this article on Soundcloud

Listen to the audio version of this article on YouTube

Attaining emotional health is not a one-time event. Rather, emotional well-being is an ongoing, dynamic, proactive process, just like any other healthy lifestyle behavior. Emotions are a physiological experience, meaning they happen in the body. When we experience an emotion, our biology changes: heart rate, breathing, muscle tension, blood pressure, and even temperature can all shift when an emotion fires. To prevent the effects of emotional buildup (e.g., overwhelm, sleeplessness, fatigue, anxiety, depression) bodies must metabolize each emotion that occurs, and we do this by paying attention to the emotional sensations in our bodies. When we are not aware and do not know what we are feeling or where we are feeling it, emotions get stuck. We become emotionally clogged, and buildup happens. Read (or listen) on to learn how to sidestep “box thinking” and invalidation, both recipes for emotional buildup and the antidote to freedom and empowerment.

THE IMPORTANCE OF DAILY EMOTIONAL HYGIENE

With other health behaviors, such as eating, we understand the need to attend to this habit daily if we want results. For example, if after years of eating nothing but unhealthy processed junk we changed to a healthy eating lifestyle, we wouldn’t tell ourselves that after a week or even a month of healthy eating, that we are healed. Even more so, we wouldn’t go back to a diet of processed foods, head for that fast-food drive-thru, and expect to have stellar health and maintain our nutritional gains. We would understand that to continue to reap the health benefits (e.g., stabilized weight, even energy, balanced mood, trouble-free digestion), we must continue our regular practice of feeding ourselves nutritious foods.

Most of us are not taught to take time out of our day for emotional processing. Much like brushing our teeth or other personal hygiene habits, emotional health requires daily attention.

What prevents daily emotional hygiene? Box thinking and Invalidation:

 BOX THINKING

 “I’ve already dealt with that.”

Instead of viewing emotional health and processing as a daily practice, people sometimes are under the false assumption that they have “dealt with” whatever emotional experience they have endured; meaning that they have talked about it, experienced emotions, and can now put it away, never to be felt again. I have heard people use the phrase, “I’ve already dealt with that,” to describe their emotional processing of the death of a close loved one or past abuses or trauma. Other phrases under the “I’ve dealt with it” umbrella include “I’ve already talked about that in therapy,” or, “I’ve cried about that; I have no more tears to shed.” It is as though the emotional experience is a box to be opened and examined, and then taped shut and put up in the rafters, never to be seen again.

What’s the problem with box thinking?

The problem with “box thinking” is that…

Box Thinking = Emotional Buildup

I once heard a friend use the phrase, “I’ve already dealt with that,” regarding her father’s death, meaning that she was not supposed to have further emotions about it because she felt what was there and then neatly put it away. Taking my friend as an example, can you imagine her not feeling anything when her father was not able to be at her wedding, the birth of her children, holidays, other important markers in her life? Of course not! Emotions are NOT dealt with and then put away in a box and tied up with a bow.

Remember, emotions are a dynamic, flowing, ever-changing process. Emotions are not a one-time event that happens and then goes away forever, especially when the event prompting the emotion is significant to us. When we view emotions this way, we tend to deny ourselves the opportunity to feel them. For instance, if we decide that we are no longer allowed to mourn a loss in our lives (e.g., breakup, divorce, job loss, death), we learn to quickly shut it down when the feelings of sadness or grief start to appear. We lock it into that box and distract ourselves, rationalize that we don’t really feel that way, and inadvertently, create a layer of emotional buildup.

INVALIDATION

“There’s nothing wrong. Why am I crying?”

This statement often precedes a judgment such as, “This is so stupid,” or, “There is no reason to cry,” or, “I don’t understand what my problem is.” People even apologize while wiping away their tears. When we can slow things down and approach the tears or sadness or pain from a curious and nonjudgmental space, we can always validate the emotional experience.

Emotions are sufficiently explained by science. They are a physiological experience and fire when something prompts them. Feelings do not randomly fall out of the sky. If we are experiencing an emotion, by definition, that emotion makes sense. Even if you cannot see the cause in the moment, the mere fact that you are experiencing an emotion means that something prompted that emotion to fire.

When we can get curious instead of judgmental about our feelings, we can better understand where they are coming from and what we need. I have never once walked away from a therapy session or a conversation with somebody where I’m thinking “yeah, I don’t know why you’re crying either.” There is always a reason, and if we are curious and interested, we can understand.

I may ask a patient of mine a few questions about what’s been going on, or what was happening right before the person cried, and it is almost always something clearly upsetting. I might hear about a conversation where a person was informed that they did a horrible job, or they just had an experience that made them think of how much they miss their mother. Typically, something happened that understandably led to sadness, but instead, they judged themselves for feeling, and this clouded their ability to comprehend.

BENEFITS OF DAILY EMOTIONAL HYGIENE

Wouldn’t it be liberating to allow ourselves to freely experience emotions as they ebb and flow; without trying to categorize them or saying when we should be feeling them? Imagine knowing that we can handle whatever emotion comes our way, that we know how to ride the waves, and we are valid in our experience(s). Envision being able to trust our bodies to the degree that when we feel something, regardless of its content, we immediately respond, “Oh, something is happening here. It must make sense, even if I don’t know why, because I am feeling it.” All of this can happen, and I have seen it happen with so many of my clients, with a daily emotional hygiene practice as their foundation.

Emotions happen daily, just like healthy or non-healthy eating occurs every day. If we want robust emotional health and the kind of clarity and empowerment that comes from processing our emotions, we must practice. Read (or listen) to the following Daily Emotional Hygiene practice to help clear the clouds of emotional buildup, gain regular access to your wisdom, the ability to see clearly, and learn to trust in your body and yourself.


DAILY EMOTIONAL HYGIENE PRACTICE

Listen to the audio version of this practice on Soundcloud

Listen to the audio version of this practice on YouTube

Emotional health requires daily practice to clear emotional buildup. This practice will help you develop and sustain a relationship with your emotional self. The stronger that relationship is, the more internal power and wisdom you have access to. You can liken it to a relationship with another person; if it is somebody you never see, and you do not put effort into spending time with them or calling to connect, the relationship is going to dwindle: you need the quality time to bond. You certainly wouldn’t treat your children in this way saying, “Okay, I’ll talk to you in a few weeks, go to your room.” Instead, you want to be involved, and know what is going on, and the same is true for building a relationship with our emotional selves. Let’s practice.

Let’s use these next few moments as quality time to connect with your emotions and your body, and clear emotional buildup.

We’ll start with paying attention to 3 breaths. You do not have to change or alter your breath in any way, simply notice what your breath is doing in this moment, for 3 inhalations and 3 exhalations.

Now, ask yourself, “Hmm, where in my physical body is my attention drawn as I notice my breath?” Notice where in your body you pay attention as you feel your breath in this moment.

Throughout this practice, as you mind wanders, when you noticed it has wandered away, very gently, with no hint of harshness, guide your attention back to your breath, coming home to your body, each time you notice your mind has gone on a walk and wandered away.

Now, take a brief scan of your body from your feet up to your head. Make a note of any sensations that come into your awareness, no matter how big or small…Scanning your body and noticing any sensation.

Coming back now to anchor yourself in your breathing, I’m going to ask you a question. When I ask the question, you can simply focus on your breathing. There is no need to search for an answer or try to come up with anything; simply notice what information your body gives you, if anything at all. Noticing your breath flow in and out, now asking your body, “What emotion is present in this moment?” Just notice and breathe. Breathe and notice.

If you noticed an emotion name came up such as anger, sadness, joy, or even if you noticed not knowing what emotion is present, now, again, focusing on breathing in and out and ask your body, “How do you know? Where is this feeling (or lack of knowing) located in my body?” Breathe and notice what comes into your awareness.

Whether you have noticed emotional sensations or not at this point, pay attention to a few more breaths while simultaneously noticing any physical sensations that are present. It doesn’t matter if these feelings stay the same or shift and change. Your gentle task is to create a soft, welcoming environment for any sensation to arise. As you notice any sensation, take a few breaths as you pay attention to this feeling. Then, after a few breaths, ask yourself curiously, “Now, what do I notice in my body in this moment?” It doesn’t matter if you notice the same thing or something different. By paying attention to sensations in your body in this way, you are allowing emotional feelings to arise as they please, be noticed and felt, and waft away when they are ready. Anything you have felt thus far in your practice has been processed and metabolized, that layer of emotion digested and released.

If you would like, you can continue this practice of noticing sensations and breaths in your body for a little while longer, or you can conclude your practice for now. Think of this exercise like brushing your teeth, but for your emotions. If this is the first day in a long time you have brushed your teeth, you are going to have some buildup, and the first brushing may seem insignificant. However, if you keep at it, consistently, little-by-little and day-by-day, emotional buildup will release and you will be able to feel at peace and at home in your body.

Remember to pay attention to your breath and body every day, even if only for a few minutes. This is how you develop strong emotional hygiene and robust emotional health and healing. If any part of this meditation was difficult, I invite you to continue to gently practice, noticing if your experience shifts over time.

Happy practicing!


September Newsletter

Welcome to my September Newsletter!

This month, we are officially entering the Fall season! Depending on where you live, you may soon experience colder weather and some gloomy, cloudy days. With the change in seasons can come a change in how you feel. If, when the temperature drops so do your emotions, I encourage you to be proactive: Start thinking about how to buffer your resilience now!

In this installment, you can read (or listen to) my article, Daily Emotional Hygiene, and commit to a daily practice of attending to your emotions. By developing a deliberate practice and getting a jump start, you will build a robust and stable foundation for weathering painful feelings. Also in this issue, find out what your wisdom has to do with bone broth, meet a therapist who helps you face any flavor of anxiety head-on, and learn about what one company is doing to provide mental health service coverage as an alternative to insurance. I hope you enjoy this issue. Happy Fall!

Great news: You can now follow me on Instagram! Check out drbando for updates, interesting tidbits, comments on current events related to health, psychology and well-being, and spontaneous pictures and fun stuff. Hope to see you on social media!


FEATURED ARTICLE…


Attaining emotional health is not a one-time event. Rather, emotional well-being is an ongoing, dynamic, proactive process, just like any other healthy lifestyle behavior. Emotions are a physiological experience, meaning they happen in the body. When we experience an emotion, our biology changes: heart rate, breathing, muscle tension, blood pressure and even temperature can all shift when an emotion fires. To prevent the effects of emotional buildup (e.g., overwhelm, sleeplessness, anxiety, depression) bodies must metabolize each emotion that occurs and we do this by paying attention to the emotional sensations in our bodies. Continue Reading


MOTIVATION AND AN ALTERNATIVE TO INSURANCE FOR MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES…

Lyra Health is a company that employers hire to provide free mental health services to their employees. Employers contract services with Lyra to offer each employee a certain number of therapy sessions per year (I have seen anywhere from 25 to 50 sessions covered yearly).  Lyra hires an extensive network of mental health professionals (myself included) to provide care. In their own words, Lyra Health “is transforming mental health care by creating a frictionless experience for members, providers, and employers. Using technology and data, we connect companies and their employees to mental health providers, therapy, and coaching programs that work.” Last month I was asked to be a contributor to their blog, and you can read my article on motivation here: lyrahealth.com

ANOTHER POINT OF VIEW…

One of the things that I love most about my profession, is learning, growing, and being inspired by other professionals. One of those people is CBT Therapist, anxiety expert, and author, Jennifer Shannon, LMFT. Jennifer has devoted her life’s work to helping people cope with, instead of run from, anxiety. She wrote the first social anxiety book for teens (nothing for teens suffering with social anxiety was previously available to the public), and is passionate in her focused and science-backed approaches to taking charge of your life instead of shirking in fear as a result of anxiety’s threats. Jennifer also practices what she preaches. She was a victim of the Sonoma County 2017 fires and lost her home, and she chronicled her journey through the devastation via her blog. Jennifer practiced the skills and coping strategies she teaches and laid it out bare and raw for you, the reader, to benefit from her surviving this extreme hardship. If that’s not fierce, I don’t know what is! For access to Jennifer’s books, blogs, videos and therapy services, check out her website: jennifershannon.com

DID YOU KNOW…


Nutrition is a key health behavior that influences not only how we feel physically, but our mood, emotions, how we make decisions, how we sleep, and our relationships? Check out my video below explaining how eating affects individuals differently and also learn to make a nutritious bone broth in your own kitchen!

DR. BANDO’S BONE BROTH RECIPE:

This recipe is extremely forgiving and can be tailored to your preferences. Feel free to eyeball the quantities and combine ingredients in amounts that look right to you.

Remember to source your ingredients well!

Ingredients:

  • Bones from one pastured chicken (included skin and any leftover meat on bones)
  • 4-5 garlic cloves, smashed
  • ¼ – ½ onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 – 3” chopped fresh ginger (use more for spicy ginger notes and less if ginger flavor is not your favorite)
  • Carrot or celery (both, or whichever one you have on hand)
  • 2 T apple cider vinegar
  • 1 heaping T sea salt
  • 1 ½ t peppercorns
  • Filtered water

Instructions:

  1. Put all ingredients into a slow cooker.
  1. Pour over enough filtered water to cover the ingredients and all of the chicken bones.
  1. Turn the slow cooker on “low” and allow to simmer for 24 hours.
  1. Filter the broth and store in the refrigerator for a few days or in the freezer for longer. (Make sure to leave a couple of inches at the top of your jars if freezing. Liquids expand when frozen and you don’t want the bummer of broken glass in your bone broth.)

Drink as often as your body wants and enjoy!

Rather than taking my word for it, if you are interested in learning more about the benefits of bone broth, please visit PubMed or Google Scholar and see the data for yourself. If you prefer a summary, I’ve provided links to a few quality blogs providing an overview of the data and important benefits of this health elixir. Happy researching!


WANT MORE?

My recent articles and guided meditations and practices are now available with an audio option – all for free! If you would like to enhance your mindfulness practice, experience this month’s or any recent offerings, please visit my Soundcloud page.


LIFE’S TOO SHORT TO JUST SURVIVE.
THAT’S WHY I HELP PEOPLE THRIVE
I hope you enjoyed this article! If you would like to become a subscriber to my monthly newsletter, you can do so by clicking the SUBSCRIBE button at the top of the page.
Amanda Gale-Bando, Ph.D.

Body Image and Weight Loss Part 2: Nonjudgment/Curiosity

If you are like most Americans, the word “overweight” immediately brings up a judgment such as, “No!” or “Ick!” or “I don’t want that,” or some idea that being “thin” is better than being “overweight.” We even have the term “plus-sized” for people who require larger clothing, indicating that they are not a “normal size” in society’s eyes. Conversely, we do not frequently use a term such as, “under-sized” for people who are under average weight, because society does not have the same harsh judgment for this situation and may even encourage it.

If you would like to listen to this article, click here.

For many people, the concept of weight can immediately bring up judgments toward ourselves and others. Once we learn to practice the skill of Nonjudgment, this helps pave the way to get past those mental roadblocks that keep us from making changes to our health, including weight regulation.

If you are grappling with your own Body Image and/or Weight Loss, consider the following four elements as your skills to practice on your way to achieve mastery and confidence feeling comfortable and at home in your skin:

  • AWARENESS
  • NONJUDGMENT/CURIOSITY
  • REINFORCEMENT
  • SELF-COMPASSION

We discussed Awareness as it pertains to Body Image and Weight Loss in the first part of this series, and in this second part, we’ll take a look at nonjudgment and its role in helping to move past seemingly impossible obstacles.

Nonjudgment/Curiosity

A stance of being nonjudgmental and curious is imperative for you to begin to raise your awareness about what you are doing that is effective, and what you are doing that is not working for you at this point in your life. If you are judgmental (as most of us have learned to be) and feel shame when you notice your behaviors that are not working, it becomes so aversive to pay attention to these ineffective behaviors, that you start to tune out. When your awareness wanes, the change you want also goes out the window. When you learn to notice a judgmental thought and label it as such (“a judgmental thought just came into my mind,”) and look at your situation and behaviors with curiosity instead of evaluation, you are able to gain information about how you are feeling and behaving. Gathering data is the key to being able to change behaviors, and the stance of nonjudgment and curiosity allows you to do just this. This stance transforms an aversive and shameful situation into something interesting to notice.

Nonjudgment means describing things as they are, without adding opinions or evaluations. In other words, nonjudgment = truth. Now imagine applying the practice of nonjudgment to the issues in your own personal life that are keeping you from making a change. You will start to notice life go differently for you if you practice approaching problems with nonjudgment, which can then lead to compassionate and effective action.

Before attempting to apply the skill of nonjudgment to emotionally charged life circumstances, start practicing with more every day, ordinary, non-emotionally evocative situations. This approach will help you build the muscle of Nonjudgment. When you become stronger at applying this skill, you will notice more success when you gradually apply a nonjudgmental stance to larger, more significant events in your life and the world around you. To discover essential steps to get you started, click here.

The practice of Nonjudgment does not eliminate the pain. Rather, it can take the suffering down a notch so that you can breathe, get a bit of distance from the intensity of emotion, and regulate the emotions and/or solve the problem. If you are interested in further developing the skill of Nonjudgment, try the practice suggestions below:

  • Practice noticing judgments throughout your day.
    When you are aware of yourself (or someone else) making a judgmental statement, or you have a judgmental thought, say to yourself “judgment.” (Over time, noticing and labeling judgments helps us become more aware of them and gives us a choice about the most effective way to proceed.)
  • Sit and focus on your thoughts for 30 seconds to a minute.
    Imagine two different boxes, labeled “judgment thoughts” and “other thoughts.” For the next 30 seconds to a minute, notice any thoughts that come into your mind and imagine placing them in the appropriate box.

The next time you notice yourself being judgmental, see if you can describe (verbally or in writing) the same situation nonjudgmentally; truthfully and descriptively, without judgment.

After some time practicing, you may notice increased awareness of what is going on around you and in your life. When your eyes are opened, it allows you to take the steps needed on your road to change.

To listen to the Nonjudgment Practice audio, click here.

Nonjudgment Practice

Take a moment to bring your attention into the present moment. You can use your breath as a grounding or focus point. Notice where you feel your breath in your body. Every time your attention wanders away, very gently come home to the feeling of your breath in your body. If you’d like, you can try to gently notice your breath in the background as you listen to my words. Your breath is always in the present moment and you can always bring your focus back to your inhalation and exhalation when your mind wanders.

Now we are going to spend the next several moments paying attention to thoughts. However, rather than involving ourselves in the content of our thoughts, we are going to sit back and observe thoughts that come into our mind.

First, imagine that you have two boxes or containers in your mind’s eye. You can design and create them any way you wish. Now, imagine that one is labeled “judgment thoughts” and the other box is labeled “facts.” Your task, for the next several moments, is to observe any thoughts that come through your mind and place them in either the box marked “facts” or the box marked “judgments.” To be clear, facts are everything you take in through your senses – eyes, ears, nose, skin, mouth. Anything you add to this is an opinion or judgment. If I have the thought, “that painting is framed and has blue and green colors,” I will place that in the “facts” box. If I have the thought, “that painting is ugly,” I will place that in the “judgments” box. See if you can not only observe your thoughts, but also place them in one of these two boxes. We will do this in silence for the next 30 seconds. Remember, take the observer stance, notice any thoughts that come through your mind, and place them either in the box labeled “judgments” or the box labeled “facts.” I’ll let you know when 30 seconds has passed…

Now, gently let go of the images of the boxes in your mind’s eye. Bringing your attention back to your breath, notice that you are breathing, feeling your breath in your physical body. And now, reflecting on what you noticed during the 30 seconds of watching and categorizing your thoughts. Did you notice mostly judgments? Mostly facts? Did your mind go blank? Were you flooded with so many thoughts it was hard to catch them all? Did you notice not knowing whether your thoughts were facts or judgments and weren’t sure in which box to place them? Take a moment to reflect on what you noticed. See if you can do that without judgment (or, if you notice judgment, call it a judgment and return to the facts).

It doesn’t matter what you noticed during this practice. Your practice is first, bringing your mind back when it wanders (that’s mindfulness), and second, embodying a stance of curiosity and interest in place of judgment.

Practicing nonjudgment is just that: a practice. Nobody walks through their day without any judgmental thoughts, and we wouldn’t want to. Judgments are useful. By practicing nonjudgment, we expand our capacity to notice when we are judging and then allow for ourselves to make a choice whether proceeding forward with that judgment is helpful or harmful. The key to nonjudgment is repeated, daily practice, practice, practice, and then more practice. If you are interested in building the muscle of Nonjudgment, set an intention for your practice now. Make it short enough that you can practice daily – 30 seconds of daily practice can be useful. How will you practice? Will you watch your thoughts as we just did, take some of my other suggestions I’ve written about, or come up with your own practice?


August Newsletter

Welcome to my August newsletter!
For return readers, you will notice that I’ve changed the format around a bit to not only include my current writing/articles, but also what’s fresh on my mind, and some relevant commentary on what’s happening in the world around us. In this issue, please enjoy Part 2 of my Body Image and Weight Loss series, an introduction to a psychiatrist who prescribes NO medication (shocking, yet true!) and a little tidbit on healthy eating and what happens under the influence of a big corporation not interested in our health or side effects.
Great news: My recent articles are now available in podcast form. This means that you can choose to read or listen.
I hope you are having a great summer and this issue adds to your sunshine! Happy August!

FEATURED ARTICLE…

My featured article for the month of August is Part 2 of my Body Image and Weight Loss series. In this installment, I discuss Nonjudgment/Curiosity, and I also have a guided practice that you can listen to, which will help you along the path of Nonjudgment. Click here for Part 2
You can also read/listen to Part 1 of this series by clicking here.

CATCH UP…

If you have enjoyed this month’s article and would like to read any of my previous articles, you can do so by clicking here.


ANOTHER POINT OF VIEW

Kelly Brogan is a NY-based psychiatrist who prescribes NO medication “under any circumstances, ever.” Rather, she helps people eliminate their psychotropic medications (anti-depression, anti-anxiety, and even anti-psychotics) and change their lifestyle with some remarkable results. Much like my perspective, Dr. Brogan is an advocate of informed consent. Simply put, this translates to educating the consumer/patient by making relevant information available and understandable so that YOU, the consumer, can make an informed choice. Too often, doctors prescribe medication without offering other options or even assessing the patient’s lifestyle. If you are curious about some possible alternatives to psych meds, check out this podcast (Joe Rogan interviewing Dr. Brogan).

Disclaimer: While I may agree with some opinions that some people discuss, my endorsement is never of the entire person and is not an implication that I agree with everything they say or do. As always, please filter everything through your wisdom; use what works for you and discard what doesn’t.


DID YOU KNOW…

Monsanto supplies Starbucks with their milk products? This means that every time you order a mocha, latte, frappacino, or any Starbucks drink with dairy, you are getting a dose of Monsanto’s chemicals as well. Buyer beware, and take heart: I say this without judgment and simply for your own information. Knowledge is power and you may do with it as you wish. Recently, I was driving with a friend (I was the passenger) and she said, “Don’t hate me, but I just really want to stop at Starbucks right now!” Even though she has known me for a few decades, because of my personal boycott of Starbucks, she assumed I would look down on her choice. Rather, I told her that I choose not to spend my money at Starbucks and make information available to others who want to receive it but I do not wish to make anyone’s choices for them. Long story short, I sat with her in the Starbucks drive-thru while she purchased her drink, and we continued our friendly conversation. The point here is that education is for empowerment, not to control others’ choices. So, no judgment from me if your everyday morning routine involves Starbucks or Monsanto-supplied milk right out of your fridge. I do support your right to know what is going into your body and your right to choose whatever decision you make about that. As always, consult your wisdom.

Speaking of Monsanto, did you see this recent article? Monsanto has been ordered to make a huge payout to a school’s groundkeeper who contracted cancer after years of spraying their pesticide as a part of his job. This is more information to keep in mind regarding Monsanto products and the risk to your health.


LIFE’S TOO SHORT TO JUST SURVIVE.
THAT’S WHY I HELP PEOPLE THRIVE
I hope you enjoyed this article! If you would like to become a subscriber to my monthly newsletter, you can do so by clicking the SUBSCRIBE button at the top of the page.
Amanda Gale-Bando, Ph.D.

Living an Authentic Life

You may have heard the term, “Living an Authentic Life”. This phrase has different meanings to different people and there are countless ways to embody this, depending on your personality, history, talents and soul purpose, to name a few. My way of helping you live authentically is teaching and facilitating your ability to tune into your Wisdom. Most of the time, this starts with emotional awareness, understanding, and experiencing, and developing your expertise in harnessing your physical experience to align with your values and what is most fulfilling for you in this life.

Listen to the audio version of this article.

Every person has Wisdom. Just as we all have logic and are able to reason things through, we have emotion and can act impulsively or with love or out of fear; we all have blood coursing through our veins and bones and muscles in our bodies. In the same way, we all have Wisdom. I define Wisdom as that place where knowing exists. It may occur to you as a settling sensation, a sense of peace, clarity, intuition, or really any number of experiences. Your wisdom is distinctively yours and how you encounter it is unique to you. My life’s work is to help those who are seeking to access Wisdom in such a way that you are not only making big decisions from a Wise place but also living your everyday life informed by this valuable source. I believe being able to part the clouds of your noisy life and tune into the knowing deep inside is your key to unlocking the door to living your Authentic Life.

This begs the question, “How do I reach my Wisdom?” The answer: by treating your life as a Guest House and putting out the welcome mat. In our society, we are heavily reinforced from a young age to “think things through.” While some thoughts can be distressing, most people do not have trouble welcoming in and being aware of thoughts. Even when someone asks how you feel, a typical response is to report what you think, e.g., “I’m stressed because I just sat in traffic,” “I’m looking forward to going to a movie tonight.” In fact, discussing how we feel is so foreign in our society that responding to the question, “How are you feeling?” is never answered by, “Well, let’s see. I have a very slight fluttering in my stomach, I am noticing my feet touching the ground, and there is a feeling of lightness in my chest. Overall, I’m feeling hopeful.” Try responding in this way the next time someone asks how you are and you will most certainly meet a furrowed brow and possibly awkward conversation.

Yet, as the poet, Rumi, so aptly stated many years ago, “This being human is a Guest House.” What he meant is that emotions flow through us, they come, and they go, much as visitors of a guest house. It is a natural process, and we are plagued with much suffering if we fight off, suppress or ignore what we are feeling. Never does Rumi say to brace yourself and clench your teeth until the unpleasant emotion passes. Rather, he writes about “a depression, a meanness…a crowd of sorrows” and urges you, “Welcome and entertain them all!” “Meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in.”

The human condition is to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Therefore, being a guest house to our emotions is a practice. When we practice, we rid ourselves of emotional buildup, and we allow ourselves to simply be, with the confidence we can handle whatever comes our way. And when we do this, we clear the clouds of emotional chaos and create an opening for our Wisdom to appear.

Are you looking for the Wisdom to Live an Authentic Life? Please take a look at my articles*, exercises, worksheets, and audio guides to help you achieve your personal goals as you shift from surviving to Thriving!

*Stay tuned for next month’s article, Part 2 of the four-part Body Image and Weight Loss series started this past June. If interested, you can access the written and audio versions of Part 1 here.

_________________

Guided Meditation

Listen to the audio version of my guided meditation to help you live an Authentic Life.

Living your authentic life involves tuning into your Wisdom. This starts with emotional awareness, understanding, and experiencing, which helps lead you on a path to aligning your day-to-day life with your values, resulting in your deepest fulfillment.

By treating your life as a Guest House, as the author, Rumi, suggests in his poem, you can cultivate a welcoming, accepting and nonjudgmental attitude toward your emotions. You can learn to allow your emotions to flow through you, leading to clarity, a sense of peace and knowing, and ultimately access to your Wisdom, the gateway to living your authentic life.

I am going to read the poem, The Guest House, by Rumi, twice. Your task is to listen to the words, allow them to flow through you, and notice any sensations as they arise. When your mind wanders, that is perfectly fine, as minds are meant to think, just notice that your mind is thinking and ever so gently, bring your attention back to the words, back to your body and sensations, back home to your house of Wisdom.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

By Rumi

As this recording comes to a close, you may choose to sit in silence for a few more moments, gently noticing the sensations of your breath and your body, knowing that allowing your experiences to flow through you provides access to your Wisdom and to your Authentic Life.

Thank you for listening. I’m Dr. Bando, licensed psychologist, happy to help you shift from surviving to thriving!


Body Image and Weight Loss Part 1: Awareness

body image and weight loss: awarenessMy definition of the word “overweight” may be different than yours. We can probably agree that the word “overweight” immediately brings up a judgment such as, “No!” or “Ick!” or “I don’t want that,” or some idea that being “thin” is better than being “overweight.” After all, the idea that thin = good and fat = bad is probably a message you have received your whole life. Body Image and Weight Loss are a concern for many, so if you struggle with either, you are not alone.

Listen to the audio version of Dr. Bando’s article.

It certainly doesn’t help that you are constantly bombarded with society’s opinion of how the ideal body should look. We even have the term “plus-sized” for people who require larger clothing, indicating that they are not a “normal size” in society’s eyes. Conversely, we do not frequently use a term such as, “under-sized” for people who are under average weight, because society does not have the same harsh judgment for this situation.

Receiving these messages over and over in your life – from your family, school peers, and the media – creates a breeding ground for shame. Regardless of what you weigh or your body shape and size, it is common to feel embarrassed and shameful, to some degree, about your weight and your body.

You may know that feeling ashamed of how you look makes you feel miserable. Do you also know that shame significantly contributes to your weight and size? You can think of shame like a subtle, poisonous bacteria, worming its way throughout your cells and influencing not only the decisions you make about your health, such as what you eat, how you exercise, and the quality of your rest, but also how your body metabolizes, what you crave, and how quickly you feel satiated. Often, the people I work with in regard to managing their weight or body image are not aware of the extent of shame they feel, and so do not have any agency over how this shame is influencing their bodies.

If you are interested in learning more about your relationship with your body and building skills to improve that connection, read (or listen) on.

The first skill imperative for a healthy, happy relationship with your body is:

Awareness

However you view your weight (e.g., overweight, underweight, ideal), cultivating awareness of your physical body is key in not only maintaining a weight that supports your health and well-being, but also fosters feelings of calm, peace, and feeling comfortably at home in your own skin. You may use your actual, physical home as an example, and imagine having harsh, stiff furniture that you don’t like to look at and feels uncomfortable when trying to sit and relax. This is what it feels like to be disconnected from your body. In contrast, imagine your ideal home where you feel like you can exhale, kick your feet up and be completely embraced and supported by comfort. This is what it feels like to have awareness and connection to yourself.

Let’s think about the link between awareness, and body image and weight loss. Even if being overweight is not a problem you have experienced, we all know that feeling of eating too much during the holidays. That Thanksgiving food hangover is all too real: your stomach hurts, your clothes feel tight, you feel lethargic, and your physical activity is limited. Who wants to move, dance, walk, be sexually active, or just physically engage in life when feeling over-full? Now, imagine eating this way on a regular basis. In order to overstuff ourselves the next day and the next, we must be numb to what we are feeling in our body, or we wouldn’t be able to tolerate the discomfort and would change our eating habits. Eating becomes a way of tuning out instead of tuning in.

When you reach a point of being overweight as a result of eating, and not because of health problems outside of your control, it tends to be easy to become unaware of your situation which in turn cuts you off from the emotions you should be feeling as a result.

To continue to overeat, we have to dissociate from our experience of feeling. When we pay attention, it feels horrible to eat too much. Painful, even. Think about being as extremely overweight as you can imagine and how uncomfortable that would feel. You would have to have to have no awareness and dissociate from your emotions to continue down your current path of gaining more or sustaining a weight that is physically painful.

Frequently, when I see patients who are significantly overweight, feel stuck, and cannot lose that weight, lack of awareness is an issue we attack first and foremost. There’s usually a correlation: the more overweight and stuck the person is, the more they tell me they are “fine,” “good,” “great,” and can’t figure out why the weight is staying on and they are struggling. This equation equals severe LACK OF AWARENESS. If I step on the scale and it says 350 lbs. (and I am a woman standing 5’5” tall), everything is not fine! Yet, I hear this report time and time again. Our weekly session time comes, and my client can’t think of anything to work on or anything difficult that happened during the week to bring up. I see this as a habitual state of dissociating/zoning/tuning out of how their body feels until they don’t know what is going on, what they are feeling, or what they are struggling with. In fact, at first, they may also not know how much they are tuned out.

If you see yourself in this description and it brings up shame, you are not alone. It is so common to feel shameful about this process of eating and lack of awareness and then turn away and not be able to face it. If you feel this, I encourage you: take a deep, slow breath (maybe three), and keep reading. You do not have to continue to suffer in this way. This does not have to be a life sentence.

Why and how does this happen?

In our society, problems with body image and weight typically come with shame. Lots of it. Thinking about how emotions work: one thing learned from DBT (a therapy developed to help regulate emotions) is that all emotions have what is called an “action urge” associated with them. In other words, emotions propel us to want to do something:

  • anger = attack
  • guilt = apologize/fix it/repair
  • love = get closer
  • shame = hide

Imagine a situation where you might feel completely ashamed or embarrassed. Maybe you’ve had a dream where you were naked in a crowd – what did you do? You tried to hide. Now, think about being criticized or made fun of for your weight. Even if you were never directly ridiculed, you probably have witnessed others being criticized for their body weight. Either way, no one is oblivious to our society’s values in regard to body shape and weight.

The fact that we have the term “plus sized” for people who wear a certain size of clothes is a subtle indicator that this is more than the average and not okay. We receive subtle messages all the time that thin is good and fat is bad, and if we don’t fit the mold of what society says we should look like, we feel shame.

The feeling of shame can lead to hiding behaviors, such as not eating certain types of food in front of people for fear of judgment, lying about your weight on your driver’s license, wearing clothes that look “slimming,” avoiding full-body pictures, and many other behaviors. Think about how subtle behaviors like these can seep their way into your daily life, and how as a result, you are getting a daily dose of shame. Little by little, if these behaviors of hiding increase as they often do with weight gain (eating “bad” foods in secret, going shopping alone so nobody knows your size, minimizing physical pains and discomfort that are related to your weight), shame increases. Remember shame = the urge to hide. If you are unaware (and therefore, unable to make an intentional choice) and are giving in to this urge to hide day after day, eventually, hiding is what you do. When hiding becomes your go-to, it is easy to trick yourself into pretending that everything is okay when in reality, you feel far from okay.

The Remedy

The remedy is a ton of mindful awareness practice. I don’t mean sitting on a cushion and meditating for hours, although if someone chooses, that may help increase awareness. We do need to repeatedly turn on the lights, look around the room, and notice the clutter if we are going to organize it and clean it up. There are many techniques for raising our awareness in this way. Here is a guided practice you can listen to as often as you want to help increase your awareness of your body and your experience:

Listen to Dr. Bando’s Guided Meditation

Take a moment to feel the bottom of your feet. Can you feel the surface of the bottom of your feet? Notice. What do they feel like? Are they touching something soft, hard, cold, warm? Do you feel the air on the bottom of your feet? Notice and place your awareness there.

Can you feel your clothes on your body? Notice what this feels like. Where do you feel your clothes the most? Is it everywhere or a particular location on your body? See if you can describe to yourself what your clothes feel like on your body. Is there a temperature, weight or lightness, or other sensations? Can you notice with curiosity and put judgments aside? Taking a stance of: Hmmm, what does this feel like on my body?

Now, can you notice that you are breathing in and out? Notice where does your attention go as you are placing your awareness on your breath in this moment. Keep noticing your breath and see where your attention goes at the very end of your inhalation? Where in your body do you place your awareness at the end of your inhalation? Some people say this is a place where they find Wisdom. Does it feel like that to you? Or does that not resonate or feel confusing to hear. Notice your experience.

Now, ask yourself: How hungry am I in this moment? If you had to rate your level of hunger on a scale of 0 (no hunger at all) to 10 (the most hungry you have ever felt), how hungry are you in this moment? Now, ask yourself how do you know? Is your mind telling you how hungry you “should” be or are you noticing particular sensations in your physical body? Where are you picking up on hunger cues? Where are you looking?

Now, ask yourself: How full am I in this moment? If you had to rate your level of fullness on a scale of 0 (not full at all) to 10 (the most full you have ever felt in your life), how full are you right now? What do you notice when you ask yourself this question? How is it similar or different to what you noticed when asking yourself about your level of hunger?

You have just spent quite a bit of effort noticing your physical body. Now, take a moment to offer yourself some compassion. Place a hand on your heart or over your other hand as a reminder that you are bringing not only awareness but kind and compassionate awareness to yourself, your body, and your experience. Take a nice, deep, slow breath. And now say a compassionate phrase to yourself: May I be kind to myself, May I be patient with myself, May I accept myself as I am, or May I learn to accept myself as I am. Choose a compassionate phrase to say to yourself in this moment.

If you have been in therapy with me, or you have access to tools, such as the Model of Emotions, recording emotions, urges, and behaviors on a diary card, Wise Mind practice, or other Mindfulness skills, you can also use these. The important point is to PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE, and then, when you think you have practiced enough, PRACTICE some more. My Zen teacher says that we cannot change who we are. What we can do is practice, practice, practice every day until one day, what we have practiced becomes us.

If you have found yourself in a position where you feel you are stuck, and you would like to make changes in your life so that you can be healthier and happier, contact me today to get started on a path to a new you.


© 2017 Amanda Gale Bando Phd · Designed and Developed by D-Kode Technology

Dr. Amanda Gale-Bando

Dr. Amanda Gale-Bando