April Fools! Many of us have been a part of this tradition for our entire lives, whether playing pranks of our own or being on the receiving end of a joke.
There are a number of theories on the origins of this holiday. Some say that its origins relate to the shift to the Gregorian Calendar (New Years changing from April 1st to January 1st), with those continuing to celebrate on April 1st being “fools.” Others say that it relates to the change in seasons and the silliness brought out during “spring fever.” There may be many theories on its origins, but one thing is clear – it is a tradition that evokes laughter and connection. This time of year has brought my mind to the importance of humor in creating joy in our lives.
Laughter brings us together. Laughter gives us a sense that we are not alone. Sharing humor with others is one of the most unifying feelings we can experience. And not only that; research has shown a connection between laughter, health, and happiness. Some benefits of laughter include: relaxing the body, relieving physical tension, and boosting the immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies. Laughter also triggers the release of endorphins, which promotes a sense of well being and temporary relief from pain.
In my life, I am mindful of the humor that can be found in many aspects of the human condition. I make it a point to spend time laughing as much as I can on a daily basis. Growing research tells us that our facial expressions can actually shift our emotions, hence more evidence for us to keep watching stand-up comics, silly dog videos, and funny shows. Keep playing and sharing humor with others! Through play and laughter, we let go, we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, and we experience the power of connection.
“If there’s a feeling you have, other people have it. If there’s something weird about your life, other people have lived it. If there’s something kooky about your body, other people have that, too. We’re not alone. There’s some kind of tremendous relief in that and I think it can only be expressed in belly laughter. This tremendous relief that happens the millisecond we realize, it’s not just me. That’s what good laughter is about. It’s about knowing that you’re not alone.” – Brene BrownRead More
When we experience overwhelming emotions in life, it is important to have a toolbox that can help us manage our emotions and make wise choices.
I often utilize dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) both in my personal life and with my clients. Thanks to Dr. Marsha Linehan (The genius behind DBT), I am able to share 2 of these skills below.
- Shift your mind by shifting your body chemistry: Understanding the body/mind connection is key when we are in emotional overload. It is essential for our bodies and minds to work together to signal our brains to calm down so that we can make effective choices. Some methods for doing this include:
*Stop & Breathe– When you breathe, make sure you are inhaling deeply and exhaling deeply. Try counting to 5 when you inhale, stopping for a second at the top, and counting to 7 when you exhale. Make sure your shoulders are down; put your hand on your belly to help you feel the movement.
*Do some intense exercise– I know it may seem silly, but encourage yourself to do some jumping jacks or a few push-ups! If you have the time and ability, go outside and run or lift weights.
*Shift your body’s temperature by taking a cold shower, submerging your face in water, or rubbing cold packs on your face for 15-30 seconds. Fun fact: this causes the “dive response,” in which the heart slows down, blood flow to the nonessential organs is reduced, and blood flow is redirected to the brain and heart.
- Use Radical Acceptance: One of my favorite concepts from DBT is radical acceptance. This tool can be applied to life in general, but it can also be very helpful in moments of high stress. Radical acceptance means completely accepting what life throws at you without fighting it. This does not mean that we have to approve or make light of serious pain, but it does mean that we have to accept it. Acceptance is the first step toward change. Much of the suffering that we experience in our lives is in part due to the fact that life can be difficult, unfair, and painful. Because of our evolutionary drive toward survival, our brains often respond to these painful situations by telling us to fight this reality. However, fighting facts and reality of life often turns the universal feeling of pain into a more isolating experience of suffering. Learning to live life using radical acceptance helps us to understand that life is worth living even when painful experiences happen. It also gives us compassion and connection to others.
*A simple example of radical acceptance that I practice quite often driving in LA is radical acceptance of traffic. When I am running a few minutes late and the 405 is more backed up than it usually is, I automatically have a desire to scream with frustration and think thoughts such as, “I can’t believe LA still doesn’t have a better public transportation system. This is ridiculous!” “I can’t believe I am going to be so late!” These thoughts tend to lead to more frustration, road rage, or intense anxiety. Instead, when I use radical acceptance, I catch myself in my non-acceptance of reality, take a deep breath, and say to myself, “You are feeling frustrated right now. Fighting the traffic wont help in this moment. Maybe you can write a letter later on if you still feel passionately about changing traffic issues in LA. Instead, how can you problem solve and respond effectively to the situation?” Then, as my body calms down, I decide to call a coworker and share that I will be late. I think about how I can learn to leave earlier next time. I do not judge the situation or myself, but I practice acceptance. This may seem like a trivial example, however, this concept can be applied to many more challenging situations and choices in our lives. Radical acceptance helps us to access our inner wisdom, frees us from bitterness, and helps us to grow.
To find out more DBT tips, check out the DBT Skills Training Manual – https://www.amazon.com/DBT®-Skills-Training-Manual-Second/dp/1462516998/ref=asc_df_1462516998/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=266011026192&hvpos=1o2&hvnetw=g&hvrand=1325666658134538358&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9031025&hvtargid=pla-436016876073&psc=1Read More
A lot of big changes have been happening in my life recently and I have noticed that the emotion of fear keeps coming up for me. This got me thinking about the role that fear plays in change. There have been moments in my life when I have been paralyzed by fear, and this fear has driven my decisions, which has in turn driven my life path. Along my journey, I have realized that change is always occurring around us every day, but we don’t often pay attention to it, and therefore we live our lives perceiving that change is this big, difficult, scary thing. We get lost in the trees and miss the entire forest.
Every single thing in our lives is constantly changing. Each breath we take, each move we make, we are changing in order to live and grow. We are living on a blue dot spiraling around the sun at 67,000 mph, and yet, we wake up each day without a thought about this constant motion. Recognizing the role that change has in our every day lives can help us to have courage when faced with “big & scary” changes.
Everything in life is impermanent; everything around us is constantly changing, evolving, growing, living, and dying. Our thoughts and feelings too are constantly changing; yet, our minds tend to focus on very specific and often meaningless details rather than take in the entire picture. When we are in fear mode, our minds are hyper focused on those thoughts with which we are fearful. We have an evolutionary response of fight or flight in order to survive. However, our programming that is trying to protect us often fails us. Sometimes, fear is not there to be avoided or fought, but rather, it is there to give us information and that information is there to be examined.
In order to live a life worth living, it is essential to sit with and get to know our minds, bodies, thoughts, and feelings. Mindfulness, the practice of being aware of the present moment with acceptance and nonjudgmental compassion, is helpful in many ways, but one of them is by teaching us to be brave.
I like to think of mindfulness in the same way that I think of building a relationship with a new client. When clients walk through my door, I welcome them and try to make sure they are comfortable. As the client speaks, I listen. I pay attention to whatever comes up in the room. I use curiosity and meet the client with nonjudgmental compassion. In mindfulness, we are building these relationships with our minds. Applying mindfulness in daily life can help us with change, as it gives us the space to respond to our fears with awareness and intention. It wakes us up to the control we have on our journeys and it wakes us up to truly living. Applying mindfulness in the face of fear has helped me with big changes and I hope that it can be a source of support for you as well.
“When we become inquisitive about these things, look into them, see who we are and what we do, with the curiosity of a young child, what might seem like a problem becomes a source of wisdom.” –Pema ChodronRead More