SMART GIRLFRIENDS GUIDE™ to Mindfulness (Part 1 or 2)
You may ask what is mindfulness and what does it have to do with divorce. A lot.
In a divorce you make life-changing decisions when thoughts are racing and emotions are swinging. It is extremely important to be mindful so that you are able to focus when you make choices and take actions that affect your health, finances, children, and future happiness.
Mindfulness is not the psychobabble remnant of the 60s. Mindfulness is now scientifically proven by rigorous research and testing. Through MRI brain imaging scientist can track mental activities that change the physical structure of the brain. This ability for the brain to change is called neuroplasticity, which means the brain is malleable like plastic, it is adaptable, even transformable. The old saying “you cant an old dog new tricks” is not true. Science proves that you can.
Through specific mental activities you can train your brain to make your life better. Mindfulness is powerful and can be used to;
- ease stress
- decrease depression
- alleviate anxiety
- reduce physical symptoms such as pain or hot flashes
- increase happiness
Dr. Daniel Amen a physician and double board certified psychiatrist provides interesting examples based on over 83,000 brain scans in this TEDx https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=esPRsT-lmw8
What exactly is mindfulness? The common definition is that mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.
I think the easiest way to understand mindfulness is to compare mindlessness vs mindfulness. You can name mindless activities that our brain controls, many routine functions like breathing and swallowing. We have lots of daily activities that run on autopilot from brushing our teeth in the morning to turning the lights off for bed. We don ‘t even think about it we just do it. I know I‘ve caught myself on a routine drive home and arriving not even remembering the drive because my mind was somewhere else. We typically think about what we’re going to do in the future, or reminiscing on something in the past.
Mindfulness is the opposite of mindlessness. To be mindful is to be present with active attention, not just on autopilot. Mindfulness is to live in the moment and open to the experiences of that moment. When you're mindful you can observe your thoughts and feelings as they happen. The goal is to view from a distance, aware without judging them good or bad.
Mindfulness makes sense and sounds rather easy. Let’s apply it to a relatively simple process in a divorce.
You and your ex- spouse have to divide the household items. You make a list and start the division. It starts off amicable and then an item starts to cause a problem. You both want the same lamp and both justify why you should have it. Quickly the discussion turns to into an argument and then escalates into a fight.
If you practice mindfulness you can step back and recognize when the emotions like fear or anger is take over. When you can indentify the emotions you can recognize where its coming from such as worry about money or anger because of infidelity. Mindfulness makes you aware of how the emotions make you feel. You notice how your body reacts like your blood pressure is up or your whole body is tense. Mindfulness can help you to step back, take a few seconds to a few minutes, to make a wiser decision on how to proceed. In the lamp situation you can mindfully decide if you really want the lamp or if there is an emotion taking over and the fight is really about something else. You can then mindfully decide if the lamp fight is worth the effect on you.
In divorce fights and revenge play out all too often over children, finances, and the other issues that causes hostility, runs up legal bills and prolongs the divorce. Remember every time you call your attorney, then he calls your spouse’s attorney and letters or motions are sent you sre spending thousands of dollars. Because divorce is so stressful the negative emotions run abnormally high and can take over which causes mindless reactions like the lamp fights. (A 1989 move War of the Roses is a govod movie to watch if you want to see real mindlessness.in a divorce)
Mindfulness doesn’t make you weaker. It makes your wiser. Mindfulness helps you pick your battles and make smarter decisions for you and your future.
Dr. Richie Davidson is a leading neuroscientist and neuropsychologist as well as a world leader in mindfulness. Dr. Davidson is the Founder of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at University of Wisconsin. Dr. Davidson is also a strategic partner of the non profit for which I am the president, Women to Women by Julia. Melanie and I felt mindfulness is crucial to help women in crisis not only survive but thrive.
As a survivor of a traumatic divorce myself, I know first hand the importance of mindfulness to help make smart choices in divorce and other stressful life events. It has been so helpful for us that we a launched a support group for women, Love, Marriage, Divorce and Life that includes mindfulness programs.
Melanie and I first met Dr. Davidson and his team at his impressive state of the art research center. We were fascinated to learn more about his research on the brain and the effects of mindfulness.
Dr. Davidson ‘s research on the effect of emotions on the brain activity is captured in his ground breaking book, The Emotional Life of Your Brain: How Its Unique Patterns Affect the Way You Think, Feel, and Live--and How You Can Change Them
Dr. Davidson and his team followed subjects through a series of MRI brain scans while they experienced either negative or positive stimuli such as pictures, videos and even thoughts. The research subjects with the negative input fired up the brain neurons that grew like tree branches on the right side of the brain associated with negative emotions. Conversely, the research candidates with positive stimuli and thoughts fired up neurons on the left side of the brain that grew like tree branches on the left side of the brain associated with positive emotions. http://www.loc.gov/loc/brain/emotion/Davidson.html
Continuous input of positive or negative stimuli can change the development of the brain. What you feed grows. This research proves what I tell my children, “Good in, good out. Bad in, bad out.” whether it is food, music, media, or thoughts.
Star Young is an entrepreneur and Fortune 500 award winning executive. Ms.Young is a certified excellence coach and a trained facilitator of Edward Deming Continuous Improvement. In addition, she has been a talent for CBS syndicated programming, as well as a co- founder of the Beauty Spot and author of Smart Girlfriends Guide series