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Mindful spring-cleaning: Top 3 tips for decluttering your physical and mental space

mindfulness

Winter is finally giving us New Yorkers a reprieve and we are welcoming spring with open arms. Spring not only brings warmer weather, but also signifies new beginnings and fresh starts. It’s a time to take action in our lives and many do so by focusing on spring-cleaning. Feeling comfortable in your space is key, especially in New York, where space is limited and organizing our environments can have positive impacts, both physically and mentally. According to Marie Kondo, the author of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” tidying up is an essential and life-changing endeavor. Here are three tips from her book to help you start your spring-cleaning off right:

  1. Don’t clean to avoid, “tidy up with intent” – Cleaning is often thought of as a chore that we begrudgingly do. It is frequently a means of procrastination, such that we clean instead of studying for that upcoming exam or sending that important email. Rather than being a focus of its own, tidying has become a placeholder for anxiety. Kondo sheds a different light on tidying up; highlighting that if we tidy with intent the process feels differently and becomes a special event. Kondo touches on the connection between our thoughts and actions, and is essentially emphasizing that mindfully cleaning alters the experience. Being present and aware while tidying versus mindlessly going about it changes out relationship to the activity. Additionally, when we engage in behaviors with intent we take on more agency and build mastery. Not only are we “doing what needs to get done,” we are also deliberately making the choice to create a goal and work towards it. By seeing spring-cleaning as a means of freeing up space, both internally and externally, it morphs from a nuisance to a practice.

  2. Don’t clean half-heartedly, “tidy up with determination” – Kondo encourages her clients to visualize their destination prior to starting their tidying journey. She asks them what they want their space to look like and how they want to feel when there. Our living spaces affect our bodies and minds, thus it is important to be thoughtful about how we shape them. Rather than tidying up a little bit each day, Kondo recommends using the “destination” as motivation to set a designated amount of time in which to achieve this. Doing so in an allotted timeframe and with a clear goal aids people in seeing it through to the end. Additionally, the more concrete and specific we make our goals, the more measurable and more likely they are to be accomplished. Identifying what your goal in tidying up is and creating a timeline will help you fully achieve it and keep it tidy long-term.

  3. Don’t clean without first discarding, “tidy up with two simple steps” –Kondo notes that while organizing the items one owns is the second step in the art of tidying, an important and even more integral step is first discarding items from your space. Her advice - focus on what you want to keep, not what you want to remove. Assess each item based on the pleasure and joy it brings so that in the end your space is filled with items you love. Letting go of items can be both challenging and cathartic, and concentrating on keeping the items that fit into the predetermined idea of what you want your space to be can facilitate this process.  Discarding will leave you with less clutter and more items that you truly value creating more simplicity in your space and mind.

We hope these tips motivate you to create a space that brings you joy!

 

Ready to Declutter Your Mind with MindWell NYC?

5 Steps to Letting Go: Perfectionism Isn’t Perfect

perfectionism

Are you ready to move on from a life that’s exhausting and driven by thoughts such as “What will other people think?” We would like that for you as well. In contrast to healthier types of striving, which are motivated internally by your own set of goals and values, perfectionism is motivated and maintained by worries about what others will think. “Am I smart enough?” “Am I good enough?” “I must look pulled together today or others will know that I’m struggling.”

According to research and clinical work done by Dr. Brené Brown, at its’ core, perfectionism is a way of defending against that toughie of an emotion, shame. If you can be perfect enough (!), you might envision that you could be immune to shame, blame, or even criticism from others. Unfortunately, by disowning parts of ourselves that we don’t want others to see (particularly when we feel shame about them), we isolate, we judge ourselves, and we worry even more about what others might think. Now that we are aware that perfectionism often begins with shame, follow these steps as a primer on how to learn to decrease your perfectionistic behavior.

#1 Know your own triggers for shame. These are different for each of us and are often the first stop on the road to perfectionism and unhealthy striving. To find out what your shame triggers are, ask yourself these questions- How do I want to be perceived? How do I NOT want to be perceived? How do I feel when I imagine that others perceive me as I don’t want to be seen?

#2 Connect your thoughts about how you DON’T want people to think of you with your perfectionstic behavior. For example, if I don’t want to be perceived as “lazy,” I might be the first one up in the morning, striving to have coffee and breakfast made before the rest of the house is up, at the gym before work, and at work by 9:01 AM. In this example, I am using these unhealthy striving behaviors to try to manage the shame I feel around potentially being perceived as “lazy.”

#3 Ask yourself, am I ready to try to let this cycle of behavior go and consider letting others in to see the real me? Based on my example, this might look like, “Can I allow others to know that I get an average amount of work done everyday and that I do not have superwoman-level efficiency?” Ask yourself what the pros and cons are of doing so. Know that it is scary to put the real you out there and also know that not doing so can result in shame and additional anxiety.

#4 Learn to hang with shame. Take it to dinner and a movie and get to know it a bit. Ask it questions, take note when it pops by to visit you, and see what tends to come up when it’s around. Once we learn to identify and feel shame, it’s often not such a scary experience anymore and it no longer gets to drive our perfectionistic behavior.

#5 When you notice the urge to manage your behavior or are working to manage the perceptions of others, take a break and do something kind for yourself. You’ll be making the compassionate decision to put perfectionism away for a short period of time and instead, showing up for yourself, which can also help put shame to rest.

We hope these steps get you started on the path to decreasing shame and perfectionism. We are here to help if you’d like to continue this work.

 

Ready to Move On From Perfectionism with MindWell NYC?

To Manage Anxiety, Be Kind to Your Mind

anxiety

Anxiety involves our threat detection system which can hijack our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. When in threatened mode, our attention narrows and we understandably seek out situations that will help us feel safe. In this mode, we make decisions based on fear and tend not to make decisions that are in our best interest long term.

Luckily, our bodies are also equipped with a compassionate mind system that can be activated to help us shift out of threatened mind and into a more courageous and balanced state when desired. The compassionate mind engenders feelings of support, warmth, encouragement, and patience which can help to decrease the experience of anxiety (Tirch, 2012). We are then able to be motivated based on our own desires and needs and not from a place of fear, anxiety, or worry.

In order to help you connect with your compassionate mind in the service of decreasing anxiety, MindWell NYC has compiled five of our favorite techniques to elicit self-compassion.

  1. Breathing Space Exercise- Take three minutes to check in with yourself. First, notice any thoughts, physical sensations, or emotions that you are experiencing. Once you have located all of them, bring your attention to the breath in your body. Any time your mind wanders, bring it back to the breath. Then, bring your attention to your body as a whole and notice any sensations (including breathing) in the body. This is an exercise from Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy.

  2. Self-validate- Whenever you are feeling an unwanted emotion such as fear, anxiety, or worry, see if you can understand why it makes sense that you are having this experience or this emotion. It might be based on previous history, current thoughts, your current situation, or physical sensations. Once you identify this, tell yourself in a compassionate and warm tone that your feeling makes sense and that you can accept it is it is in the present moment.

  3. Consider how you would treat a friend- Imagine that a close friend of yours is struggling with anxiety or a challenge similar to what you are experiencing. Ask yourself how you would respond to them. What would you do? What would you say? What tone of voice would you use? Pause for a brief moment and then consider how you might respond to yourself in a similar way. (Neff, 2017)

  4. Extend compassion to others- The way we treat others impacts the way we feel about ourselves. In an effort to increase compassion, find a way to contribute to others. Internally, you can extend kind or loving thoughts to someone you care about or to someone who is struggling. Externally, you can purposefully smile at others, do a quick favor for someone else, or take part in a more formal volunteer opportunity. We can tap into our compassionate selves by participating in the world in a kinder, more engaged way.

  5. Utilize RAIN- Recognize what is happening, Allow life to be just as it is, Investigate inner experience with kindness, and Non-identification. When recognizing, ask yourself about what is happening and listen kindly to what is going on for you. Next, allow yourself to enter into your experience and relax into it. You may experience a compassionate feeling of openness or relaxation. For investigation, try to allow anything you are experiencing to be welcomed and to focus your attention on your current experience. With non-identification, kindly recognize that your sense of self is not fused with your current anxiety or experience. There is no action to take with this step; rest in knowing that you are present in a natural awareness. (Brach, 2013)

We hope that these techniques allow you to begin to connect with your compassionate mind. We are here to answer any questions you may have about how to utilize self-compassion techniques to help manage anxiety.

 

See How MindWell NYC Can Help You Manage Your Anxiety

What to look for this Valentine’s Day: Fashion style, hair style… attachment style?

attachment style

In the age of swiping left or right on dating apps, the amount of time it takes to assess and consider a potential partner can be mere seconds. On top of this, the information provided to make these choices is often limited and the ease with which one can pass on a potential partner just to find hundreds more can make the search seem daunting. While developing and maintaining a meaningful relationship can be challenging, one major factor that can help you find the right match (but requires more effort than the swipe of a finger!) is identifying your attachment style and that of a potential partner.

What is attachment style? In simple terms it is the way that a person connects to others and engages with others in a relationship. Early research on attachment theory targeted the relationship between infants and caregivers, but recent investigation has also explored attachment style in adults, specifically regarding romantic relationships. It’s almost Valentine’s Day- listen up!

The three identified adult attachment styles are secure, anxious, and avoidant as defined in the book Attached:

Secure: Comfortable with intimacy, are usually warm and loving

Anxious: Crave intimacy, are often preoccupied with their relationships and tend to worry about their partner’s ability to love them back

Avoidant: Equate intimacy with a loss of independence and constantly try to minimize closeness

So what does this mean for you? Experts highlight that people with different attachment styles vary in the ways they view intimacy and the way they communicate. Based on the research, we know that finding a partner with a compatible attachment style will ideally increase the probability of developing a fulfilling relationship.

How do we know what our attachment styles are? Consider these factors:

  • Do you tend to seek/avoid intimacy and closeness?

  • Do you tend to be preoccupied with the relationship and rejection?

  • How do you react to effective communication?

  • Listen and look for what you or your partner are not saying or doing

  • Look for various signs and don’t rely on one aspect to identify an attachment style.

Lastly, an important point to note is that no attachment style is better or worse than another. The goal is also not to necessarily change your attachment style. Rather, what appears to be most important and helpful is clearly identifying your attachment style, acknowledging it, and being honest with yourself about what you need to feel content in a relationship. This will vary from person to person, even with people who share an attachment style. This knowledge can then help you identify if traits in a potential partner fit your attachment needs. Additionally, if one is already in a relationship with someone who has a different attachment style, partners can openly communicate with each other to discuss how to increase compatibility and satisfaction within the relationship.

To gain more information about your own attachment style, you can access an Attachment Style Questionnaire on Dr. Chris Fraley’s website at: http://www.web-research-design.net/cgi-bin/crq/crq.pl

(Levine and Heller, 2010)

Parenting Resolutions for the New Year

parenting

The new year is an opportunity to start fresh and to make some changes that you may have been scared about or that may have seemed difficult. There are many ways to improve your life, but one way is by making even slight changes to interactions with your children. Instead of making the usual new years resolutions, perhaps consider making some new ones to improve your relationship and your interactions with your child or children this year.

1. Spend more one-on-one time with each child

Our lives are busy, and we don’t always have time to devote to quality time with our children, especially if there is more than one child. However, quality time is one of the best ways to make a stronger connection, especially when there are no other people present to distract you. But how you spend this time matters. Instead of questioning your child on their grades, their friends, or school, allow your child to pick an activity that they will enjoy.  You may not like that video game they play, the YouTuber they love, that Netflix show they are watching, or their social media accounts, but they probably do. It can be difficult for children to talk to parents about their lives if parents are not interested in what they enjoy or want to talk about. So try learning about what they are interested in or want to do, while allowing them to lead the interaction. If it is a younger child, allow them to tell you how to play and what to do in the interaction, instead of asking them questions or telling them how to do it better. For older children, take an interested and curious approach to whatever activity they chose and learn more about what it is and why they like it. Some teens may not pick an activity they want to do with you, so one way to still spend time with them is to quietly join them when they are engaging in an activity they enjoy, and watch and ask questions. The more willing you are to do and talk about the topics your child enjoys, the more they will enjoy spending time with you and want to do it more often.

2. Validate your children’s emotions more often

Validation refers to the idea of being able to acknowledge and understand someone else’s emotions or behaviors, even if you don’t agree with them. This can be very challenging to do as a parent when you are upset with your child. However, lack of validation can lead to conflict, resentment, or withdrawal when your child does not think you understand them. To practice validating, you might ask yourself these questions when your child expresses an emotion or engages in a behavior that you don’t agree with: “How does it make sense that they feel this way, or that they did this?” “What is in their history that might explain why they feel or did this?” “What is going on today that helps me to understand how this happened?” Simply reflecting their emotions back to them can be validating in itself. Try to avoid adding anything to the validating statement. For example “I understand why you broke curfew because you were having fun with your friends and wanted to stay later.” This does not mean they are not breaking a rule or getting a consequence, but it does allow for more understanding and connectedness without adding a “but” after. Pausing after validation is important so your child knows you truly understand, and that you aren’t jumping to punishment or criticism.

3. Acknowledge your child’s positive behaviors more often

So often we assume that our children are supposed to be following our rules, doing their homework daily, being a good friend, respecting us, and spending a long day at school listening to their teachers. We don’t often take the time to acknowledge the hard work or effort that it might take to do some of these things. Instead, we tend to comment when they do something wrong, criticize them for making mistakes, or tell them how they can do things better. Instead, try noticing even small positive behaviors daily. All people appreciate or enjoy being acknowledged, appreciated, and recognized when they put in effort. This is a way to improve relationships and increase connectedness. Some parents have trouble finding behaviors to acknowledge, so it may be helpful to think of one or two that you know are difficult for your child, and try to look specifically for occasions when your child puts in effort towards doing them. Perhaps this is spending time doing homework in a class that is challenging, doing chores around the house, or facing a tough situation. The more children can feel recognized and acknowledged for their effort, the more they will want to engage in those behaviors again, and the more positive they will feel towards you.

4. Find a middle path with your child more often

So often you may find yourself in the middle of a battle with your child, where you each are on opposite sides. For children of all ages, it may be helpful to work with them to come to an agreement, especially for teens and older children. Take the time to listen to your child’s side of the situation, and explain your side to them in a way they can understand. Check for their understanding to make sure they get your side, and confirm you understand their side by repeating it back to them. See if you can work with them to collaboratively come to an agreement that incorporates both sides, at least a little. You may not want to budge on certain decisions, but whenever possible see if you can take into account your child’s perspective and find something a little closer to the middle. For example, you may want your child to only be on their cell phone after they finish homework and they may want to have full access to it. A middle path might be allowing them some time on their phone when they first come home, taking it away to do homework, and getting it back when they are done. There is not one right middle path, there are many options for any situation.

5. Set clear expectations with your child when possible

Most people do best in situations when they know what to expect. Consider previous jobs you have had, and the ways you have been managed.  Most often, we appreciate knowing how we are being evaluated, what the rules are, what is expected of us, and what the day will look like. It’s a lot more difficult to do well when you are constantly guessing what your boss is looking for and then having to adjust after you were told you already did something wrong. Children are no different. If you haven’t, discuss your daily expectations with your children with regard to chores, homework, family interaction, and any other responsibilities you believe they should have.  Perhaps add a discussion on phone/screen time expectations. These all should be collaborative conversations so that you can better understand your child’s perspective on your expectations, and perhaps together you can adjust for what works considering both perspectives. If both of you are on the same page, it will be more likely that your child can work to achieve your expectations, and it will also likely decrease conflicts and disagreements.

Trying any of these resolutions will be challenging if you aren’t used to them, so you may want to pick one or two to start with and focus on. Over time and with practice, they will get easier and you will be able to focus attention on a new skill to continue improving your relationship with your child. These skills also require some attention and effort at maintaining. If you suddenly stop attending to your child in these ways, you may observe interactions going back to the way they were before, so it is important to continue these practices to see benefits.

MindWell NYC wishes you a very happy new year! See our parenting page https://www.mindwellnyc.com/parenttherapy/ for information about the parenting services we offer.