Tag Archives: intentions

Mindful Choices

A good Friday and weekend to everyone as we round out Janvier. It has been an interesting month that feels longer already, for many. You might be amazed, or maybe not, at so many people who are actually in distress, even while looking just ‘fine’ on interwebs. We are really not inclined to tell people that we are vulnerable. Yet. That’s my professional and personal goal and bias, the big yet.

Whether you follow the Gregorian, Corinthian, Islamic, Persian, or the Lunar calendar: It’s been a weird twilight zone.

I often field mental health, clinical psychology, and neuropsychology questions through my various websites.

I’m asked every year why I don’t write psychologically about New Year’s resolution and goals. I’m a big believer in personal agency, and I think people can start whatever they need to do, now. And now. And now. Dates are random. I have seen incredible deeds start at 10:30 AM on a Friday.  Absolutely no association with anything esoteric.

If there’s one small intention I would mention that is doable by all is to make mindful choices, about things that seem not a biggie. The practice of mindfulness is so small and so powerful. People ask me what it means. It’s not a fancy ‘Om’ in an exclusive enclave of yogis and meditators. It’s basically looking around, observing habitually, and making small choices on a daily basis based on what you see. It is the ultimate change mechanism.

Many of us have friends and loved ones who are not doing so great. I’ve been on both sides in my life. People don’t always tell you they need support.  I guess before we go out for that $150 mimosa Sunday brunch, it might be helpful to go to a local delicious taco family owned business and help a friend who might need support with the other $120.

I completely own this bias.  If you know me, IRL, I am far from averse from pleasure. However, it’s possible to have a great time and also help somebody at the same time. Our Frontal Lobes are pretty phenomenal.  But you all asked.  Big love. I’m not shy, but I’m always open to learning. Sorry for the delayed response. A great weekend and February to all.❤️

Seven Paradoxical Intentions for the New Year

Reduce Food Waste
With all good intentions, the majority of people throw away a largesse of wilted produce and other perishables throughout the month. While we may wish to food prep: beautifully prepared Tupperwares stacked in the refrigerator ready to take to work or put in the microwave and oven are usually a rarity or intermittent. In reality, an astounding amount of food is wasted by most households. If you go to your local South Asian, Latinx, Korean, or Caribbean markets, you will greet the same families almost day after day shopping for fresh dinners. Planning smaller meals on a more frequent basis may be antithetical to the genuinely beautiful products of Costco and big box stores. I’ve never known anybody who used 2 pounds of lettuce… ever.

Be Bad, Mindfully
If you are going to spend the weekend binging a series, sitting in your pajamas, eating the whole pizza, sleeping the day away, or drinking delicious libations, do it. Do it without beating yourself up. Do it without feeling guilty and do it without feeling guilty about feeling guilty. We are the only species that feels anxiety about having anxiety. Never in the history of time have I ever met anybody who improved their mental health by hating on themselves. Hedonic pleasure is short-term. Guilt hangs around.

Say no, simply and politely
“Thank you for thinking of me. I’m not going to be able to do it. It sounds like a lovely idea”. It is the sandwich. + – +
You don’t need a lot of other condiments.

Be a Baby
Let yourself have some moments when you get to cry, whine, and complain. Send yourself to your room, shut the door, get under your softest blanket and feel sorry for yourself. When you emerge from your self imposed timeout, you will feel better.

Express Wonder
When you see something really cool, something that you want to learn, somebody who is amazing, the gorgeousness of nature, the utter cuteness of your child or companion animal, the radiance of a friend, say it. The psychologist Maslow called it the ‘Peak Experience’. Parents of young kiddos say to me, I am reliving the beauty of the things that are familiar through my child’s eyes. Remember when you first went to Disney World and it was the Magic Kingdom, not overpriced everything, long lines, grumpy families, and cynicism. Wow is still possible. We forget to see it.

Enjoy the Simple
If you have a delicious cup of coffee in the morning, see your dog’s tail wagging joyfully because you’re home, enjoy the warmth of clean clothes from the dryer, listen to your favorite song, delve into a new book, turn over and go back to sleep because you can, or take in the scent of your beloved, it matters. Collect them.

Reduce Judgment
I have been serving a community shelter and food kitchen for over a decade, Washington DC. One of the first times I served food there, I had a humbling learning experience. I brought copious amounts of delicious curries and home made roasted chicken, as well as buckets of Popeyes, extra crispy, picked up on the way in. The Popeyes rapidly disappeared while my biryani remained forlorn for some time. An experienced volunteer said to me: don’t judge people what gives them pleasure. It’s important to remember that. We need pleasure.

These intentions might seem simple. They are a practice.
Related, see Stones Across the River.

How to reset

“Add something new to the mix.” If you’ve ever been in my office, you’ve heard me say this.  It takes approximately 60 days to start to lay down new neural pathways, which come from consistent practice of a new behavior.

Growth involves changing behaviors—and in order to change a behavior, you have to change your thinking (or “rewire” your brain). Neuropsychologists find that habitual behavior is created by thinking patterns that create neural pathways and memories, which become the default basis for your behavior when you’re faced with a choice or decision. Trying to change that default thinking by “trying not to do it,” in effect just strengthens an undesired behavior. When you try NOT to think of something, you actually have to think about that thing in order to not think about it.

Change requires creating new neural pathways from NEW thinking.

Many people assume willpower is a character trait that you’re born with, or innately lack. I frequently work with teenagers and young adults. When they make supposedly bad decisions, I often hear parents say to their kids, ‘why did you do that, where was your willpower’?

But research suggests that it is more complex: It can be trained, but it also relies on mental resources, self care, and energy, and can become depleted if overused. Researcher and psychologist, Dr. Roy Baumeister, has spent years studying how people regulate emotions, resist temptation, break bad habits, and perform up to their potential; and why they often fail to do so. Among his conclusions: Each person’s supply of willpower is limited. And, as the ‘power’ aspect of willpower implies, it’s a form of energy. It gets depleted when you use it.

So new habits depend on the basic energy supply that a person needs for all other acts of daily self-control, problem-solving, and decision-making. In short, eating well, getting enough sleep, exercising, reading, writing, learning, trying new things, having a strong social group, and caring for others are the fuel that is required for change. I call this fuel the foundation. With it, you build new roads and pathways; infrastructure.

People often view resolutions or intentions as short-term goals to be achieved. So if they don’t quit that bad habit or lose that weight in a short period of time, they become demotivated and often quit trying. Change requires uploading a new program in your subconscious. It can include deceptively simple actions. Go for a walk. Engage with a buddy who has similar goals to keep each other accountable. Put greens on your grocery list. Finish that online course or certification. Clean out your closets. Edit your contacts.

Add. 

Also see Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength- August 28, 2012, by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney.

Embolden Psychology
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Embolden offers the ADOS-2, the gold standard assessment for kids on the spectrum.

Combined with psychoeducational testing, it helps provide comprehensive information and recommendations to help children and teens six and up.

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