Mental & Emotional Health

Make 2015 The Year of You!

As a psychiatrist, I have the honor of being with people through the ups and downs of life’s journey.  I bear witness to joy, fear, anger, and sorrow, and the ways in which we deal with these emotions.  My patients often say to me, “I think what I need is to just stay busy.  I need to distract myself.”

Distraction certainly has its role.  Sometimes keeping ourselves occupied with meaningful activities like exercise, time with friends, or work, can keep us out of our head.  Sometimes distraction involves not so meaningful activities such as alcohol, drugs, shopping, gambling or sex as means of disconnection.

But what would it be like to just…be?  To be with our selves, just as we are?  The most important and enduring relationship we will ever have, is the relationship that we have with ourselves.  This relationship is based on our intimate knowing of our physical bodies, minds, spirits, and souls.  If we continuously distract ourselves from ourselves, then we lose the gift of cultivating a loving relationship with the person who matters most.

Here are some ways to make 2015 a year of getting to know YOU:

1.  Slow down:   For some, this can feel terrifying!  We are used to maintaining a rushed pace, often to distract ourselves or for fear of missing out.  Pay close attention to when you are moving too fast, or are too busy.  Say “No” to activities that aren’t necessary or meaningful to you.  Make a conscious choice to block out time on your schedule for rest.  Create buffers between activities so you are not rushing from one thing to the next.

2.  Discover quiet:  The sounds of our world–people talking, music playing, kids asking, technology beeping–can be loud and intrusive.  The voices in our heads–our constant commentary–can be deafening.  Turn the volume down, or better yet, switch to silent mode, and allow yourself to just be.  This is when you can start to become aware of the forces that operate within you.  This is when you can feel the beating of your heart, or the sensation of your breath.  This is when you can feel how emotions, desires, and aversions come and go like the tide of the ocean waves.

3.  Experiment with meditation:  Once you feel comfortable with disconnecting, experiment with how meditation feels.  Meditation is a way to observe all of yourself in a compassionate, non-judgmental way.  You might start with a brief sitting practice where you focus on the sensation of breathing for a few minutes.  Don’t put pressure on yourself to meditate in a certain way.  Don’t make it another project or goal that you can fail at.  Meditation is called a practice for a reason. Find your entry point and build from there.