Rx 18 Move More, Sit Less: this video explains how and why

By Dr. S.D. Shanti, ©2020

Millions of people are suddenly dependent on computers for work-related video calls. Then, they transition into video calls with family and friends. Finally they relax with movies streamed via the Internet. All of this adds up to increased amounts of sitting.

Therefore, Risk Factor Mama, Epidemiologist and Expert in All Manner of Deadly Threats to Life, decided to speak out on this topic.

Please reuse and repurpose this video to dance at your desk.

Mindfulness Webinar Open to the Public, May 20, 2020

Mindfulness is an ancient practice that is helpful in stress reduction and coping with difficult circumstances. It is also backed up by research in the psychology of health and wellbeing and will improve your quality of life, even if you are unable to change a lot of things at this time.

If you would like to participate in an interactive learning experience that is practical and immediately applicable to your daily life, please consider registering for my forthcoming webinar on May 20th at 7 p.m. Pacific Standard Time. You can register here: Access Your Inner Calm – Mindfulness Made Accessible to All.

In this webinar you will experience my unique way of teaching mindfulness, such that you can immediately apply it in your life and benefit from it.

If you have never attempted mindfulness practice, or if your previous attempts at mindfulness have been unsuccessful, I encourage you to give this a try.

My teaching method enables people to immediately apply the learnings even if they lead busy lives and don’t have much time to dedicate to a traditional mindfulness practice.

Since 1996, I have taught mindfulness in universities, hospitals, professional settings, religious organizations, adult education and businesses in the United States, Canada, Switzerland, Italy, Hong Kong and Thailand.

My focus is on practical steps you can take to integrate mindfulness into your daily life, such that it supports clarity when making decisions under stress. In this webinar you will learn how to maintain calm and a feeling of peace, even in difficult situations.

The proceeds from this workshop will support this website and blog. As the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected our financial situation, I would be grateful if you might consider supporting our work, and sharing this information with others who may also find the webinar useful.

Rx 17 Notice the Small Things in Your Life That are Sources of Joy and Meaning

By Dr. S.D. Shanti ©2020, Adapted from my book The Time-Starved Woman’s Guide to Emotional Wellbeing: tools and strategies for balance.

Difficult situations can overshadow what is going well in your life, and the COVID-19 pandemic is like a giant shadow over all of our lives. There are many difficulties and challenges we are forced to accept. So many things are beyond our control and simple activities like visiting a friend or relative have become impossible.

As you work thorough the challenges, it is important to recognize and cultivate the good that is present in your life.

What are some of the good things, right in front of you, that you might be overlooking? 

You may have to stretch your mind to notice the positive elements in your life. Try noticing the good, however small it might seem in the moment. Such things can be a source of joy and offer an uplift.

You don’t have to jump up and down clapping your hands. Noticing what is good in your life can be as simple as appreciating subtle things, such as the color of the sky, or listening to comedy or your favourite music on YouTube.

Mindfulness, practiced in its simplest form, for instance only sixty-seconds of focused attention, can nevertheless enable you to become aware of things that you may otherwise miss. If you like, you can just watch your belly rise and fall as you breathe and appreciate the intricacy of the human body.

What small things give you joy? Is it the smile of your child or grandchild? Might it be a joke that a friend shared with you in the course of a phone call? I’d love to hear about the simple joys in your life and invite you to share them below.

For Your Information: On May 20th at 7 p.m. Pacific Standard Time, I will be doing a webinar through Changing Hands Bookstore in Phoenix, Arizona. It is is open to the public and all proceeds will support the bookstore and our work during this difficult time.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected our financial situation negatively. Thus I would be grateful if you might consider supporting our work and sharing this information with others who may also find the webinar useful.

Rx 14 Mindfulness Meditation: no cushion or monastery needed

Dr. S.D. Shanti, April 17, 2020

Mindfulness helps you to manage stress and increase your awareness of joy and gratitude in your life. It can also help to enrich your relationships with loved ones.

You don’t have to sit on a cushion for hours. Instead, you can simply turn everyday activities such as walking, eating, washing dishes, chopping vegetables and singing into mindfulness meditation.

Below is an excerpt from my book, The Time-Starved Woman’s Guide to Emotional Wellbeing: tools and strategies for balance, which offers you a brief overview of mindfulness. Of course this information is not for women only. I’ve been teaching mindfulness since 1996 to women, men and children in a variety of settings, including at the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland.

You might consider chocolate mediation. It’s something everyone tells me they like and I will be sharing more on chocolate meditation in forthcoming posts.

Mindfulness—Going from Automatic to Aware

Mindfulness is a non-religious activity that promotes health and is supported by modern-day brain and physiology research. It is a widely-used tool in health psychology.

Mindfulness is about going from automatic to aware and being focused on the here and now. It is one of the simplest and most effective ways to appreciate what is good in your life. You can also use it to become aware, in a non-judgmental way, of negative thoughts that automatically pop up in your mind.

Picture your mind as the pendulum of a clock, moving back and forth, from the past into the future. The mid-point of the pendulum swing is the here and now. When your thoughts are on autopilot and drift off into worries about the future or criticism about your past actions—or any negative thoughts, for that matter—bring yourself from automatic to aware.

Notice where your thoughts are straying. Are your automatic thoughts steering you toward feeling bad? Take note of what registers for you and steer yourself toward neutral or positive thoughts.

To get started with Mindfulness, breathe slowly and focus on your breath. Use your awareness of your breath as an anchor to keep your thoughts from drifting in unwanted directions. In moments when you catch your thoughts going in directions you don’t want or don’t like, gently bring your attention back to your breath. You can look at your belly rising and falling as you breathe.  Or you can notice the air going in and out of your nose as you inhale and exhale.

Your breath is your doorway to “stillness on demand.” It is available to you any time and any place, no matter the circumstances, whether it is during a medical procedure, at a performance review, or if you are about to erupt in frustration at your spouse or child.

Cultivating Mindfulness is easy and within everyone’s reach. It is not necessary to sit on a cushion or go on a retreat. If you’re too wound up—or just don’t have time—to sit quietly and focus on your breathing, you can focus on whatever you are doing, whether it is walking, eating, drinking, or working in the kitchen. You can even use everyday sounds in your environment, like the chirping of a bird or the ticking of clock, to keep you “aware” and keep your mind from drifting to automatic or negative thoughts.

If all of this seems like a lot of work, just take a piece of chocolate, put it in your mouth, and savor it with your full attention. Close your eyes. Let the chocolate melt and enjoy the richness. Breathing is a good anchor for calm, but as you know, sometimes chocolate can come in a close second. And when you eat chocolate mindfully, you are more likely to be satisfied with less (so you can enjoy your chocolate and not feel guilty about eating it).
© 2020, Dr. S.D. Shanti

Image by Jacqueline Macou from Pixabay

Rx 12 A Science-Based Cartoon to Help You Search for Solutions

by Dr. SD Shanti, April 5, 2020. For translation and further details on how to use this tool, please scroll below.

  • What is Inside of You: Your thoughts, emotions, feelings, and motivations.
  • What You Do: Your actions and behaviors, including your interactions with other people.
  • The World Around You: Your environment, which includes the people around you, the culture in which you live, the physical structures of your home, aspects of your neighborhood, and the political and economic climate in which you live and work. The elements of your environment surround you in an array of concentric circles.

Use this three-part tool whenever you feel overloaded or stuck. You can also use it if you simply want to find a new way of looking at an old problem.

How to Use this Three-Part Tool

Whenever you are stuck or stressed, ask yourself these questions:

  • How can I think differently?
  • Can I view this situation from a different perspective?
  • What can I do differently?
  • Who can help me?
  • What can I change in my environment?

It might take some effort on your part to answer these questions. Allow yourself to be creative and go beyond conventional limits when seeking answers. Even if you cannot answer all of these questions, try answering one or two. The answers will give you clues for solving your problem.

Do not feel that you must use all three corners of the cartoon at once. Just begin with one corner, even if you cannot address all of them. Because the three corners are inter-connected in a two-way manner, any change you take in place can potentially have a positive impact on another corner.Remember – you always have options—and the questions above will help you find clues to solutions.

In forthcoming posts, I will share with you how people use this guide to solve situations and address challenges, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

By the way, this is my translation of science into practice, such that large numbers of people can use it in their daily lives. It is based on a landmark paper, The Self-System in Reciprocal Determinism (1978), by Professor Albert Bandura at Stanford University. And just in case you are wondering, yes he has seen it and approved it.

© Dr. SD Shanti, 2020

Rx 11 Self Efficacy: the Antidote to Hopelessness

Please scroll below for translation of this prescription and for more information about self-efficacy and the children’s story.

Even if you’re not familiar with the classic American children’s story The Little Engine That Could, which illustrates the concept of self-efficacy, the message of the book is universally relevant. Research from around the world proves the importance of self-efficacy in helping people effectively manage their lives and overcome obstacles.
If you’re interested in seeing the book and hearing the original story, here is a link on YouTube.

Translation of Prescription
Rx When you feel hopeless, say to yourself what the little engine in the children’s story said to itself over and over again, as it worked hard to reach its goal: “I think I can…I think I can…”

This illustrates a concept called self-efficacy. It is the belief that you have in your ability to do something, even when it is difficult. Repeat this to yourself and defeat hopelessness. Research shows this is the most important predictor of success. It is your antidote to hopelessness. If you think you can, it is very like that you will!

Rx 10 Each Time You Feel Frustrated, Irritated or Upset – Brush Your Mind

Thank you for sharing this widely, especially during this stressful time.
Please scroll down for translation.

For more details about how to brush your mind please see Rx 9

Rx Each Time You Feel Frustrated, Irritated, or Upset – Brush Your Mind

  • Breathe from your belly slowly
  • Move – dance, walk, clean your house or any other constructive activity
  • Sing or chant
  • Connect with a friend or loved one
  • Remind yourself of what is going well, even when life is not perfect

Rx 8 Guided Meditation Video: Access Your Inner Peace Quickly and Easily 6 minutes

Peace is always within you and this guided meditation shows you how you can be in touch with it as often as needed. You can use this as part of your daily routine or you can also use as needed when feeling tense or overwhelmed. In other words, you can use this video to brush your mind as needed.

You can follow the video with your eyes closed, or if you prefer to relax with your eyes open, you can enjoy the progression of the lotus flowers. I chose this flower because of what it symbolizes. The lotus flower grows in the mud and muck yet rises above that and offers beauty.

You can think of this as a symbol for your life, in that one part of your life is grounded in various daily realities (including the daily grind…) but you always have another part of you and another aspect of your life that transcends the daily reality, and offers you access to uplifts, beauty, meaning, and if you are so inclined, the sacred. It is a reminder that our lives can be lived on two planes and there is more to life than just the difficulties, hassles, and yes even the COVID-19 pandemic.

What if We Brushed Our Minds Like We Brush Our Teeth?

Op-Ed piece by SD Shanti, originally published in the Arizona Republic, the leading newspaper of Phoenix and neighbouring region. February 2, 2014

The text of the entire article is placed here to facilitate translation.

Professor: Self-regulating behavior can make us healthier

When I graduated from dental school, I went to dental conferences and got free toothbrushes. When I graduated from a master’s-degree program in public health, I went to public health conferences and got free condoms. When I graduated from a doctoral program in psychology, I went to psychology conferences and got … nothing.

This story illustrates one of the biggest problems we face in the arena of mental health, namely that the issues we deal with are often intangible. Pharmaceuticals and caricatures of shrinks as portrayed in mass media offer us an incomplete picture of the world of mental health. What is missing is a means of describing mental-health promotion in such a way that speaks to broad audiences, from children to seniors across all countries and cultures.

Interpersonal violence and emotional distress and depression are widespread public health problems around the world, on the same scale as HIV/AIDS and dental decay. But their origins are predominantly behavioral.

There are no bacteria to vaccinate against, no viruses to vanquish, and there are no commercial products that drive an industry that supports disease prevention such as we have with toothbrushes and toothpaste.

According to the World Health Organization, violence affects one out of every three women. But violence is not only a women’s problem, as large numbers of men also experience it. Depression is a major cause of disability in the world — leading to lost productivity, distressed families and increased risk of suicide. Often, violence and depression go hand in hand.

We have seat belts and vaccines to prevent injuries and illnesses. Similarly, there exists within psychology the means of reducing, if not entirely preventing, violence and depression. However, the preventive methods are behavioral. They are intangible, yet their effects can be felt in terms of the emotions we experience and in our quality of life.

It is daunting to think about tackling these problems, especially when they affect millions of people. It’s like trying to cross the Alps on foot. But, as with any mountain climb, it all boils down to taking small and regular steps. One by one, they add up into something big and measurable.

Small steps, big progress

Self-regulation is one of those steps that will go a long way toward preventing violence and depression. If behaviors were vaccines, this would be one of them. Self-regulation is also at the heart of the folk saying: “You can’t control which way the wind blows, but you can adjust your sails.”

It can be broken down into two major realms: regulation of our actions and regulation of our thoughts and emotions. You can think of self-regulation as a psychological thermostat that keeps people from exploding in anger or spiraling into despair.

Consider road rage. Instead of reacting with irritation and aggression, if a person learns to use self-regulation in a preventive manner, he can think his way through the situation. Maybe the driver who cut him off did not mean to do so intentionally. What if he had an ailing relative he was rushing to see? Broadening one’s perspective and looking for alternate explanations of events is one way of diffusing negative emotions.

Mindfulness — the act of focusing on the present moment and letting extraneous thoughts fall by the wayside — is another means of self-regulation. It is a way of decluttering our minds, allowing us to turn off unwanted thoughts, especially those that undermine our confidence or fuel our fears.

Seeking emotional support is another way of dealing with negative emotions. Instead of withdrawing into isolation or seeking solace through chemical substances, we can turn to a trusted person such as a spouse, partner or friend.

Our bodies and minds are intricately interconnected. Exercise or any form of physical movement can also serve as an effective means of dealing with negative emotions, as anyone who has played a game of hoops to let off steam can attest.

There’s no doubt that self-regulation is important for our physical and emotional well-being. But the challenge lies in getting this concept across to a range of people of different ages, cultures and customs.

That’s where the power of metaphor comes in.

Brushing your mind

Toothbrushing is among the world’s most widely carried out acts of self-regulation. Nearly everyone does it, regardless of where the person lives or what language the person speak. What might happen if we all “brushed our minds” in the same way that we brush our teeth?

Negative emotions are a lot like dental plaque. No one escapes either; they are an inevitable part of life. In both instances, a little bit of plaque and a little burst of negative emotion are not likely to lead to serious problems. However, when left unchecked, both negative emotions and dental plaque can have a cumulative effect that will cause damage over time.

What if people learned from childhood onward how to brush their minds, just as we learn from a young age to brush our teeth?

Every health-care provider has his or her personal list of patient interactions that we never forget. One of mine was in Switzerland, where in my psychology practice, a woman sat on my sofa, Kleenex box at hand, upset and crying because of difficulties in her life. That was when it hit me, that what I was witnessing was the psychological equivalent of a toothache.

Certainly brushing one’s teeth is not a guarantee against developing a toothache. But it is definitely an important component of disease prevention and health promotion. Similarly, brushing one’s mind is not a guarantee against aggressive outbursts or sadness that impedes a person’s ability to function. But if we are to do something about the data mountains, and attempt to reduce these global statistics, we have got to start somewhere.

The formula for preventing psychological problems is similar to that of preventing other health problems. It’s complex and is influenced by a host of factors, including socioeconomic status and access to preventive services. But one of the key elements of this process is that of the individual taking action to help him or herself.

Does toothbrushing prevent all dental problems? Certainly not. Yet if large numbers of people did not brush their teeth, what might that look like? Similarly, brushing one’s mind is not going to be the end-all to the problems of violence and depression.

Yet if large numbers of people around the world regularly brushed their minds, how might their lives be different? And if large numbers of people around the world regularly brushed their minds, what impact might that have on the global data on violence and depression?