Mindful Self-Control / Marlena Fiol
February 27

Mindful Self-Control / Marlena Fiol

This morning I woke up feeling like my life was in a tailspin. I won’t list all of the reasons why. Let me just say that I’m behind on just about every task that needs to get done to write and publish my blogs, to post this season’s podcast episodes, to prepare questions and then interview guests for the next season’s podcasts…the list goes on.

Have you been where I am today?

Exhausted after a night of obsessing about everything that hasn’t gotten done, I pulled myself out of bed and opened my laptop. Up popped Dr. Andrew Weil’s Health Tips for the day:

  • · Feel and express gratitude
  • · Look for humor in difficult circumstances
  • · In appropriate situations, relinquish control and learn to just go with the flow!

Feel and Express Gratitude

We all know that people who consciously count their blessings tend to be happier and healthier. But how does this actually happen?

A recent study suggests what might be behind gratitude’s psychological benefits. The researchers used an fMRI scanner to measure brain activity in order to distinguish subjects who experienced gratitude and those who did not. They found that people who practice gratitude showed greater neural sensitivity in the medial prefrontal cortex, a brain area associated with learning and decision making. And this effect was found three months after the gratitude practice began. The researchers concluded that simply expressing gratitude may have lasting positive self-reinforcing effects on the brain.

What are you most grateful for today?

Look for Humor

Something is humorous when it’s unexpected or incongruent. For example, things that don’t belong together seem funny when put together.

Injecting humor into our lives supposedly improves the immune system, lowers blood pressure and enhances blood flow. But I doubt that this is true for any kind of humor. The type of humor I’m likely to experience today would surely carry an underlying negativity…like the sarcastic thought, “This is just what I needed today.”

By contrast, healthy humor creates joy. When life knocks me down, as it has today, healthy humor helps me focus on the absurd parts of my experience and laugh at myself. I notice that I cannot feel guilty or anxious when I’m laughing. At least not when I’m really laughing. It’s my choice: to laugh or not to laugh.

What’s hilariously funny in your world?

Relinquish Control

This is without a doubt the one I struggle with the most. When life feels out of control, like it does today, my vision narrows, adrenalin begins to pump up my heart rate, I lose awareness of the present and my mind jumps from one thing to another, trying to bring order back into my universe.

The irony is that the tighter my grip on trying to control my world, the more it seems to spin out of control.

So, when do you need to just stop and breathe?

Nita Sweeney, my guest on this week’s podcast, described herself as a 49-year-old overweight woman suffering from crippling depression and bipolar disorder, when she caught the running bug. Her first run lasted 60 seconds, but she kept running just a bit longer and a bit longer. Since then, she has completed three full marathons, 28 half marathons and almost 100 shorter races — and through it has discovered an inner strength she didn’t know she had. With refreshing honesty, Nita shares her journey from debilitating fear to self-mastery.

I asked her, “By what process do you begin to let in the fact that you are a winner, especially when your inner voice says you’re not?”

I love what Nita said:

I still have the doubts that plague many of us. If I don’t run for two or three days, my brain will say, “Well Nita, that was fun. But it’s over now. Like, I’m never going to run again. So, I say, “Thank you. I appreciate that you’re trying to protect me. Now I’m going to go put on my running shoes and just go run a couple of miles. So, hang tight, and let’s see what happens.”

Did you notice that Nita’s response to her brain includes gratitude, humor and relinquishing control?