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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Starved for Time? Mindfulness and Therapy Can Help

As Americans, we live in the richest country in the world. In the midst of all this abundance, there is one thing most of us are starving for. And that is more time!  More time to sleep, more time with our families and friends, more time to get our errands done, more time to think about our lives and make the best decisions for ourselves, more time for self-care, more time for exercise, more time for fun!

As a nation, we are characterized by our work and productivity ethic. To slow down means to fall behind the competition, to not meet our sales goals or not make payroll, or to fall behind in rent, mortgage or college payments.  From High School onwards, most children and adults in this country don't get enough sleep, with damaging effects on concentration, learning, mood, weight, stress-tolerance, and health. 

Lack of time hurts kids and families

Despite the wealth of our country, the quality of life for US children is lower than in many European countries, according to current worldwide statistics. In one survey, when asked what one thing they would most like to have, most US children asked for more time with their parents.  Part of the problem is that people in urban areas move around a lot, so we can't count on having family around to  help us out. For the sandwich generation, there is added pressure to look after our kids and try to figure out how to visit or care for aging parents living far away.  Marriages are strained when there is no time for physical intimacy or to communicate and negotiate conflict.

Why we need mindfulness

All of this time pressure leads us to be on automatic pilot a lot of the time, disengaged from the fabric of our lives. This creates anxiety, depression, and impaired quality of life. That is why we so desperately need the attitude of mindfulness! 

Based on ancient Buddhist philosophy and validated by neuroscience studies, mindfulness involves slowing down for long enough to observe your breathing, your thoughts, your feelings, and your body's reactions.  When you observe your own reactions with relaxed acceptance, you begin create distance from your judging, worried mind and can get closer to your own, authentic truth.  When you let go of your attachments to things having to be a certain way in order to be happy, you can tune in to what you really want and need at a deeper level. Such self-awareness helps you make more conscious and authentic choices about your values and how want to spend your time and energy.

What is most important to your happiness?

Do you really want the drive for status, and keeping up with the neighbors to have such power over your life? Research shows that beyond the point at which your basic needs are met, more money doesn't necessarily lead to more happiness. Rather, it is the quality of relationships and living an authentic life that makes us most happy!  Exercise, health, and fitness can also help us combat depression, sleep better, and feel happier. 

Learning mindfulness skills like meditation and a mindful attitude to living can help you slow things down and refocus. Seeing a psychologist to deal with an important life issue takes time and investment, but by helping you make better choices about your life priorities, it is an investment that can pay huge dividends by giving you more authenticity, time, choice, and freedom.
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