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Be Present: Sage Advice from Kung Fu Panda

One of the best things we can do for our mental, emotional, and physical health is to simply live in the present moment. The phrase is becoming cliché, but that doesn’t mean its significance has reduced. Rather than living fully today, we often spend our entire day worrying about what’s coming up in the next one. Or, we waste away our lives regretting and lamenting what we have (or haven’t) done in the past. Neither of these strategies are helpful in getting the most out of the here and now. So, how do we stay in the present? Here are a few tips:

Do a little bit of writing (or reflecting) each day, preferably with a pen and paper

In our fast-paced world, we feel like we are working at a million miles per hour. Writing helps slow things down and clear our minds, which is very therapeutic. To write clearly is to think clearly. There’s a power in writing down our thoughts and expressing what we are thinking and feeling.

Put away the technology!

Smart phones, iPads, and computers are constantly distracting and “stimulating” our minds. Put them away! Be present where you are, especially if your children or those closest to you are competing for your attention. You won’t regret it.

Take time to breathe

Obviously, we are all breathing throughout the day, but sometimes its just enough to survive! We want to thrive, not just survive. Take a step back, and take a few deep breaths. Not only is this good for the nervous system, but deep breathing is a useful tool in grounding us and helping us develop a healthier perspective on life.

In conclusion…slow down. Enjoy the present moment. Soak it in. In our pop-tart, microwave society, we are always running from place to place, both literally and figuratively. Take some time each day to reflect, put away the technology, and practice being fully present in the moment.

Maybe I have been watching too much Kung Fu Panda with my boys, but like Master Oogway says: Yesterday is History, Tomorrow’s a Mystery, Today is a Gift…That’s Why They Call it the Present.

Please, if you have found other ways that have helped you stay present and joy in the moment, share in the comments or share with your friends. I would love to hear your ideas.

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How to Declutter Your 2018

It’s Mine…” “No …it’s mine!”  Parents are quick to scold their children when there’s a squabble over toys, especially after the holiday season. However, kids aren’t the only ones anxiously attached to their stuff.
Grown-ups have a hard time letting go as well!  Over-consumption and excessive accumulation lead to physical and emotional baggage (not to mention the binding side-effect of consumer debt).  Here’s a short, four-minute explanation of why adults continue to act like children whenit comes to their belongings:
 
http://my.happify.com/hd/strong-attachments-to-our-things/
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Do You Have Blind Spots?

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I had the opportunity to collaborate with Margarita Tartakovsky, associate editor for PsychCentral, about self-deception and the importance of being honest with ourselves.  It was a fascinating topic, particularly in understanding that honesty, even pain, can lead to growth:
https://blogs.psychcentral.com/weightless/2017/09/how-to-tell-yourself-the-truth/
Whether you are consciously or unconsciously aware, your blind spots can keep you from the life lessons you need to learn.  A little bit of pain now can prevent you from experiencing a whole lot of it later!

 

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Couples Say The Darndest Things

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Couples therapy can be both extremely challenging and extremely rewarding for those who participate. In therapy, there is nothing more powerful than seeing a couple re-kindle their trust and affection. On the flip side, there is nothing more vicious than a couple’s diabolical pattern of criticism and contempt.
Here is an article I wrote about some of the poignant things couples have said in couples counseling:
https://understandingtherapy.com/2017/05/04/couples-say-the-darndest-things/#more-1079
To schedule a session with Michael Morgan, call Wasatch Family Therapy at 801.944.4555

 

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How to Best Help Your Junior Athlete

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Competition can be extremely stressful, especially for children and teenagers. They can feel so much pressure that they will literally worry themselves sick. Kids will oftentimes try to prove their worth to themselves, their coaches, their peers, and their families through winning. Anxiety and the fear of failure affect their performance—which makes them even more fearful. It becomes a vicious cycle!

I recently wrote an article in conjunction with renowned PGA Tour Golf Instructor, Boyd Summerhays, on ways to best help Junior Golfers. After completing the article, it dawned on me that the information would be beneficial to all junior athletes and their families. Obviously, the intricate details about golf in the article are unique to golfers, but the same concepts (bolded section headings) can definitely be applied to any sport or competition that your child is engaging in:

The 8 Best Ways To Help Your Junior Golfer

Good luck to you and your family! I hope you can find joy, fulfillment, learning, and bonding through the competition (and not just stress!).

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What Did You Say? 5 Ways to be a Better Listener

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Listening can be difficult. Our world is noisy. So are our minds. Even in our own homes, the constant noise of kids screaming, televisions blaring, podcasts streaming, phones buzzing, and our endless lists of things that need to get done that are running through incessantly in our minds creates constant noise. We try to escape the noise through headphones, but this just leads to nobody communicating with anybody.

I have noticed that we either never learned how, or are forgetting one of the most important and basic parts of successful relationships: actively listening and genuinely caring about what our loved one is telling us. We tend to do this well when we are first meeting people or are trying to make a good impression. But sadly, we forget its value when we come home.

Whether it’s just a distraction, our list of things to do, or simply overlooking the ones closest to us, we can all do a better job of listening. It’s a powerful way to show how much we care. It’s a way to honor the other person as important and valuable.

Julian Treasure’s Ted Talk “5 Ways to Listen Better,” is a short, succinct presentation on ways to improve our listening. Treasure describes listening as a skill (that should be taught in schools). He gives five exercises to practice and improve your ability as a listener:

1. Three minutes a day of silence (or at least quiet).
2. “The Mixer”—how many different streams of sound can you identify?
3. Savoring—enjoy mundane sounds (“the hidden choir”).
4. Identify different “listening positions” for different situations.
5. RASA: Receive, Appreciate, Summarize, Ask

I would add practicing “focused attention” to the list. Practice listening to something. Pay attention to how long you can focus. Notice when you get distracted from what you were originally listening to and then go back to focusing on it again.

Here is the link to the Treasure’s talk, if you have seven and a half minutes to spare.

My favorite quotes from this Ted Talk are:
• “Try to listen to [your spouse] every day as if it were for the first time.”

• “Conscious listening creates understanding.”

• “Listen consciously to live fully.”

I hope the noise doesn’t get in the way of our most meaningful relationships!

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When NOT to Trust Your Instincts in Marriage – Part I (for men)

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“We need to talk.” These are possibly the most frightening words for a man to hear, but the most exciting for a woman!

Research has been done into the phenomenon: Why is this four word phrase is so difficult for men? The findings are actually quite interesting. This phrase triggers the fight or flight response in a man’s brain. Essentially, it signals DANGER! More specifically, “what have I done wrong this time?” Or, “how have I failed as a husband?” Women may think this is a little dramatic or hyperbole, but it is merely a physiological response.

This is the same reaction that a father would have when he finds out that one of his children is in danger, or there is a problem that needs to be solved at work. Metaphorically, a man is gearing up for battle when there is a perceived problem and they are wired to go and conquer the enemy. So, it becomes more understandable, that if a man can’t go and fight the problem that is presented by his wife, he will at least want to give suggestions and advice so that his wife can.

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The Most Important Part of Any Story Is…

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As a licensed therapist, I have the privilege of hearing incredibly powerful stories on a daily basis. Everyone has come from a different set of circumstances and experiences and has a unique story to tell. Although there are many parts of our lives that are worth examining, the most important aspect of any story told in a therapy office is the person who is telling it.

The reasons and circumstances that lead to someone coming to therapy are as vast. However, one of the most common needs in therapy is some aspect of self discovery and understanding that was not there prior to coming into a therapist’s office.

For example, many clients will come into therapy due to some perceived “weakness,” whether that is an individual struggle or perceived relational shortcoming. However, as is often the case, the client ends up seeing themselves as courageous and strong, rather than weak, after sharing their story. This is particularly noticeable in cases of abuse and addiction.

To use a fictional example, Harry Potter may have felt that he was a common, unimportant, ordinary child. Although I was reluctant to admit it at first, the Harry Potter series is full of exciting adventures: quidditch, magic, flying, and battles with Voldemort. Although the series is packed with thrilling moments, the most important part of the books/movies is “the boy who lived.” It is what he was able to accomplish and find out about himself. The most important thing he learned was that he was courageous and loved. He was anything but ordinary!

This transformation of seeing oneself as “weak” to recognizing their own inner strength is a process. To be honest, sometimes it is not easy. However, I have seen it enough times to convince me that it is worth the effort. Sometimes it is the challenge in and of itself that allows someone to come to the realization of their own inner strength and worth.

Therapy can be a scary place to go. However, sometimes the scariest places are the ones that can teach us the most about ourselves. Remember, even more important than someone’s life history, is honoring the value of their own life. There are a lot of interesting topics and facets of psychology, but the most fascinating and important subject is the person who is sharing.

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The Worst Feelings in the World and How to Get Rid of Them

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Have you ever had that awful pit in your stomach, a wash of discomfort throughout your body, or incessant thoughts that you just can’t seem to get out of your head in the middle of the night? I believe we all have, but it can be difficult to identify or explain what those feelings are.

Really powerful emotions (both positive and negative) are often very difficult to describe. We sometimes just don’t have the words. Having the words can enhance a positive experience or bring comfort to a difficult one.

I have spent the last several weeks reading Brene Brown’s books I Thought it Was Just Me (But it Isn’t) and The Gifts of Imperfection. Brene Brown is a self-described shame researcher/story teller who has helped bring understanding to very difficult emotional experiences. She said that the four most common difficult emotions that people experience are embarrassment, guilt, humiliation, and shame. Brown illustrates that knowing the differences and definitions of these four experiences makes all the difference in how we interact with them and move through them effectively. Let’s start with the definitions:

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