Diversity Woman Magazine

SPR 2019

Leadership and Executive Development for women of all races, cultures and backgrounds

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46 D I V E R S I T Y W O M A N S p r i n g 2 0 1 9 d i v e r s i t y w o m a n . c o m mother by choice, everything changed. "My priorities shifted, and I was no longer passionate about real estate," she says. "I bottomed out on stress." She started to meditate to manage her stress, and she began to feel improvements. Douglas has seen a progressive shift in the way she relates to negative thinking. "e nega- tive self-talk, the guilt, the voice in my head that I'm not good enough—all that drama of the mind is still there," she says. "But it's so much quieter these days." ere are many forms of meditation (often referred to as mindful meditation). One of the best known and most respect- ed is mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), a program that began 40 years ago at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. It has since spread to most major hospitals and health systems, which generally offer MBSR courses. Today, there are also numerous mind- ful meditation apps. Some of the most popular are Headspace, Calm, and In- sight Timer. ey offer guided medita- tion ranging from several minutes to an hour or more, and typically focus on the breath, or body scans, which help you feel more in your body, as people tend to live more in their heads. Headspace has a short meditation (three or five minutes) called Neutral inking that focuses on awareness, freeing the lis- tener from both the positive and the nega- tive, and encouraging her to step away and no longer be "attached" to the feel- ings. ese quick meditations are perfect for anyone with a busy schedule. Calm has a meditation in its Mindfulness at Work section. Insight Timer lists thousands of guided meditations, you simply look for the type—body scan, anxiety, pain, focus- ing, centering—you are seeking. You can also start on your own. Shawn Achor, author of e Happiness Advantage, says, "Take just five minutes each day to watch your breath go in and out. Research shows that regular medita- tion [even in short bursts] can perma- nently rewire the brain to raise levels of happiness, lower stress, and even im- prove immune function." Practicing gratitude A regular gratitude practice can promote a simple change in perspective and focus, and is especially useful for getting out of a negative spiral. If you're down on yourself for not receiving the praise you were hoping for from your boss on a re- cent project, practicing gratitude can be a great way to put the situation into per- spective and to think about all the other things that are working well. You can be as heartfelt or materialistic as you like. "I'm so grateful I get to ride my new bike at the end of this day," or "I'm grateful for my new niece." e point is to feel that there are other meaningful things in your life. It can be a flash check-in at any point in your day. A regular gratitude practice has been shown to have a sustained positive effect. "Research on emotional resilience shows that people's capacity for joy is correlated with the degree to which they practice gratitude," says Tara Well, PhD, profes- sor of psychology at Barnard College of Columbia University, about the work of Brené Brown. Brown, the author of five New York Times best-sellers, is a research professor at the University of Houston, where she has spent two decades study- ing courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy. Based on the significant research stud- ies she has conducted and analyzed, Brown says, "Practicing gratitude invites joy into our lives. ese folks all shared a tangible gratitude practice." She suggests doing the following daily: keeping a grati- tude journal, saying grace at meals, and ISTOCKPHOTO DW Life > setting a special time to actively practice gratitude. Grace at meals, she notes, is a great way to connect with family mem- bers, especially kids. Brown recommends carrying a gratitude journal with you, so you can check in at work. Her short vid- eo on gratitude provides inspiration for starting a meaningful daily practice. Robert Emmons, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of Califor- nia, Davis, is among the world's lead- ing scientific experts on gratitude, the founding editor in chief of The Journal of Positive Psycholog y, and author of sev- eral books on gratitude. In addition to endorsing gratitude journals, Emmons has other suggestions for cultivating a daily practice. The following are just three for achieving a simple change in perspective. • Come to your senses. Going for a walk is one of the best ways to engage the senses and appreciate nature. Accord- ing to Shawn Achor, a positive psychol- ogy expert, researchers found that "20 minutes outside in good weather not only boosted positive mood, but broad- ened thinking and improved working memory." • Use visual reminders. Find something "to trigger thoughts of gratitude," Em- mons says. For example, put one of your child's paintings on the fridge. • Go through the motions. "Grateful mo- tions—smiling, saying thank-you, and writing letters of gratitude—trigger a sense of gratitude," Emmons says. To effectively manage negative think- ing, experts recommend daily practices. Kelli Douglas has been meditating for years, although she started to feel a shift in her thinking the first week. e habit needs reinforcement to stick, typically three to six months, says Julie Hani, an RN and health educator. Daily practice increases the likelihood of real sustained change. DW Anna Marrian is a writer and meditator living in Los Angeles. The first step is not to try to control a nega- tive thought cycle but, rather, interrupt it.

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