Mindfulness Matters

A Newsletter from the UVA Mindfulness Center

Menu
Monthly Musings

Unwinding Anxiety – Part Three

 "Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better." -Maya Angelou S-T-O-P  Stop: Pause, notice what’s in the body in this moment  Take a breath: feel the breath as it flows throughout  Observe all that’s here:  Stressed?  Angry?  Anxious? Bored?  Proceed: after recognizing what shows up, knowing there’s freedom to choose.  We’ve been talking about unknowingly feeding into our anxiety over the last two Musings. What “feeds” do we gravitate towards when feeling anxious?  There was an invitation for us to take a mindful moment before surfing our social media by pausing to collect some data before automatically engaging with Instagram, grabbing that candy bar, checking our email or twitter account. Pausing to notice what sensations are here in the body, where they are felt, and what thoughts or emotions are provoked before proceeding.  With this information we can ask ourselves, who’s in the driver seat, me, or my anxiety?  Here’s a little science behind how this works.  It’s called operant conditioning or reward-based learning. Our minds set up habit loops based on the results of our actions. These results are interpreted by the brain as “rewards”. These rewards shape our behavior. With positive reinforcement, we learn to do more behaviors that make good feelings continue.
Learn More

Unwinding Anxiety – Part Two

“Most of the shadows of this life are caused by our standing in our own sunshine.” Ralph Waldo Emerson  Understanding the Habit Loop and How We Feed It  The definition of anxiety is a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. Where does anxiety come from?  Without even knowing it we may be feeding it or making it worse in attempts to make ourselves feel better.  We mentioned “feeds” in last month’s Musing, the endless activities that can consume our time and attention.  Feed binging is just one way we may be playing into our anxiety. There is nothing wrong with the feeds depending on but how we are in relationship to them. However, this relationship may be making our anxiety worse.  Because anxiety is at an all-time high, it is worth considering.  The iPhone was designed after a casino, with all the bells and whistles to keep our attention.  It activates our sympathetic nervous system, the flight, fight or freeze system in the body.  You get that nice hit on your Instagram and your phone “bings”.  Someone “likes” you.  This feels good and now you want to post again. You may think, I want to feel good right now, I’m going to post something, and I’ll feel better. This repeated behavior begins to lay down a habit.  Post- get a bing- feel better.  
Learn More

Unwinding Anxiety – Part One

“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.”  - Alan Watts What is mindfulness training? Mindfulness training is practicing how to operate in present moment awareness intentionally and non-judgmentally.  In our current societal state of being driven by distraction, this has become a lost art.  Consciously or unconsciously, we tend to choose to distract our attention away from whatever- usually something uncomfortable to something more comfortable.  Those cute little puppy videos, Tic Tok, Instagram or our cell phones are good at this. It’s so automatic, we aren’t even aware of it. There are endless “feeds” today in which to spend our time and attention. Although there is nothing inherently wrong with these feeds, they can impact our lives in some unknowingly adverse ways by increasing anxiety.  Take a few moments reflecting on how many feeds you find yourself spending your time pursuing.  Here are just a few examples of our daily “feeds”. 
Learn More

Reflections on the Tragedy at UVA

It’s been a week since the mass shooting occurred at the University when three football players died, Lavel Davis Jr, Devin Chandler and D’Sean Perry, and another football player, Michael Hollins Jr, and a student, Marlee Morgan, were seriously injured.  Another student, Christopher Jones, has been arrested for the shooting.  Many others’ lives have been irrevocably changed.   Grief over the deaths as well as the impact of trauma of the event will persist for a long time, undoubtedly for the duration of their lives for some.  How can mindfulness be helpful in such a terrible situation? We can remember that we can just be with whatever arises without judging our experience. There are multiple emotions we might feel-grief, anger, fear, among many- and we can see if it’s possible to acknowledge whatever we’re feeling, even if we then choose to shift our attention to something else.  Connecting with others can be helpful in validating what we are experiencing and recognizing that we are not alone.  The University did this on a large scale with the memorial service that was held on Saturday at the John Paul Jones Arena.  We can cultivate kindness for ourselves because many of the emotions that arise are difficult to be with.
Learn More

All In The Mind

Have you noticed how much the word “mind” is part and parcel of our lives, how we tell stories and sing songs about the mind, as though it were a phenomenon that operates on its own, separately from “me”? Song titles with the word “mind” abound: the difficult conditions of your mind…Pain of Mind, Mind War, Crazy Out of My Mind, Dead-end Mind, Unsound Mind, Mind Games, All in the Mind, Quiet Mind, Thorn in My Mind, Half a Mind, A Mind With a Heart of Its Own. Then there’s your mind and what to do with it - Say What’s On Your Mind, Send Your Mind, Make Up Your Mind, Mind Control, Relax Your Mind, Free Your Mind, Open Your Mind,  Mind Eraser, When the Heart Rules the Mind, Quiet Your Mind, Change Your Mind, Travel With Your Mind, (but while you’re traveling, Don’t Lose Your Mind!) And questions about your mind… If You Change Your Mind, Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind? Where Is My Mind? Can I Change My Mind? And traveling around inside the mind… In the Back of My Mind, First Thing on My Mind, Mind over Matter,
Learn More

Perception

When we see things, we tend to believe what we see is an accurate reflection of the way things are.  How many times have we seen or heard the phrase “seeing is believing”?  When we see something, usually our automatic reaction is to believe it.  Yet there is much evidence that this is an oversimplification, that what we see is not just a simple and accurate representation of the world around us. To begin with, far more information enters our eyes than we could ever process in conscious awareness.  This information has to be filtered first, and this filtering occurs automatically without our even knowing that it is occurring.  An estimated one gigabyte of information enters our eyes each second, and is filtered down to just a few bytes of relevant data.  What is considered relevant depends on context and to what we are paying attention.  You may have seen the video of people passing a basketball during which a gorilla walks through.
Learn More

All Stories

News and Notes

Put your New Year’s resolutions into action by taking a mindfulness course through the Mindfulness Center.  The Mindfulness Center will be offering a wide range of courses starting in January…

Research Update

Participation in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Is Associated with Protection from Harmful Outcomes  Mindfulness has become a common method for reducing stress-related and some physical symptoms. As mindfulness programs have become…

News and Notes

Put your New Year’s resolutions into action by taking a mindfulness course through the Mindfulness Center.  The Mindfulness Center will be offering a wide range of courses starting in January…

Research Update

The Less You Judge, the Better You Sleep: The Benefits of Mindfulness and Forgiveness for Insomnia and Sleep Problems Rumination can play an important role in sleep problems, including insomnia…

News and Notes

New Unwinding Anxiety Course to Be Offered Starting in January Monday, January 16 - February 20, 5:30 pm- 7 pm This 6-week, 90-minute Zoom class taught by Cawood Fitzhugh focuses…

News and Notes

The Mindfulness Center Will Be Offering a Holiday Pause Every Monday in December December 5,12,19,26 from 5:30 pm - 6:15pm Need a little reset?  Treat yourself to a pause for…