Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Pain Behind the Smile

The "living artist" (as she says she prefers to be called) Patti Smith was interviewed recently in the New York Times Sunday Magazine. I just loved what she had to say about living through pain and loss in her life: "(W)e can access a lot of things that cause pain. This might seem really funny, but when I feel like that, I make myself smile...I just sit and physically make myself smile. Because sometimes it makes you laugh, and then you just go, "All right."

I remember growing up seeing these aspirin ads on TV. A woman would be vigorously playing the piano (a Chopin Mazurka, if I remember correctly), look up from the keyboard, and say into the camera: "I have arthritis, but it doesn't have me." To paraphrase that ad and Patti Smith, I think every one of us has pain, but pain doesn't have us. Our pain can be useful; we can recognize it's comings and goings, acknowledge it when it's there, and smile when it's time for it to be set aside--until the next time it visits again.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Area Parent Coach and Blogger (to wit, me) Benefits from a Good Editor (Thanks, Lora!)

NWSource.com blogger Lora Shinn summed up beautifully what I've written here about attending to one's couple relationship while parenting. Her article appears in her "little kids, big city" column of the Seattle Times/Seattle Post-Intelligencer Web site.

Her columns are a very worthwile read (even when I'm not the subject!) as are her articles for ParentMap. I recommend reading anything with her byline. Good on ya, Lora!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Follow-up to Yoga Breathing for What Ails You

I was glancing through Harvard Medical School's online dictionary of complementary/alternative medical terms when I came across the listing for yoga. The listing summarizes research done on how yoga has been effective in treating a variety of ailments, including obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, anxiety, and other mood problems.

Even the smarty-pants doctors at Harvard say: Remember to Breathe!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Breathing In What You Need, Out What You Don't

I was reminded of a great breathing technique in my yoga class the other day, so I thought I'd share it here. Alternate nostril breathing is easy to do and takes just a minute of your time (though you might end up spending several minutes a day doing it once you get into the rhythm of it.)

Here's how you do it: Place your thumb and ring finger on either side of your nose. Allow your index and middle fingers to rest between your eyebrows. Start by using your ring finger to close one nostril. Breathe through the remaining open nostril. Now, close the nostril with your thumb (the one you just breathed in through), open your ring finger nostril, and breathe out. Repeat the same process, but in reverse, breathing through your ring finger nostril, and exhaling out the thumb side. Simple, yes?

Once you've got the breathing rhythm down, you can add an intention to your breathing. Ask yourself what do I want to let go of, what do I want to make room for? An anti-anxiety intention might involve breathing in self-confidence, breathing out listening to anxiety. An anti-depression intention could feel like breathing in action, breathing out isolation. A sleep-inducing mantra might involve breathing in sleepiness or heaviness, breathing out restlessness. Breathing in messiness and exhaling perfectionism could fit for someone struggling with obsessive-compulsive disorder. You can tailor your intention to fit your unique challenges of the moment. My never-finished intention for acceptance is to breathe in satisfaction for what I have, breathing out envy for what I don't.

You gotta breathe, right? Alternate nostril breathing can take some of the load off of you, and allow your breathing to give something back.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Believing in Change

Here's a little secret about therapy: One of the key factors to therapy's success has nothing to do with the skill or training of your therapist. One's own sense of hope and expectation for change can very well determine therapy's success. Now, any therapist worth her salt should be able to reflect hope and optimism in the face of difficult problems. The important thing to remember about hope is that it can be cultivated in any situation, as long as one chooses to believe.

While hope can help us weather trying situations, it also seems to inoculate against future difficulties. A new study done by researchers at the University of South Carolina suggests that women with strong religious or spiritual ties registered lower rates of postpartum depression than women without them. I'm going to make a leap here and propose that it's the hopefulness associated with a religious and/or spiritual orientation that prevented the seeds of postpartum depression from taking root. That's not to say that all hopeful women won't get PPMDs, or that only pessimists are struck with postpartum mood disorders. What I'm suggesting is that our "immunity" to depressive illnesses gets a boost from an active hopefulness practice. And while susceptibility to depressive illnesses isn't within one's control, cultivating one's own sense of hope and optimism is.

Finally, some hopeful news we can believe in!