Monthly Archives: March 2015

Mindfulness of Feelings -Notice and Allow

3 Radical Reasons to Be Okay with Not Being Okay (And 4 Ways to Manage the Feelings)

Akilah S. Richards

Source: Decoded Science

What if I told you that it’s okay not to be okay?

You might accept that notion in theory, but when The Feels (as my daughters call it) occupy your mental space, leaving you with feelings of sadness, hurt, guilt, or just a general disconnect from any positive feelings about a thing, is your tendency to try to push through it, or to be with it?

There is this unspoken Church of Positivity dogma that pushes us toward constant optimism.

Think about how weird you’d come across to just about anyone if you said you didn’t feel good – and that you didn’t want to feel better. The agreed upon social sentiment is that as human beings, we should all be trying to experience positive thoughts and be optimistic about life.

We are expected to respond in the affirmative to the constant calls to action: show up and smile no matter what; think positive thoughts; kick fear to the curb; and be strong enough to push past our pain.

Seems legit, right?

As a matter of fact, the decision to choose positivity as our general life lens can be incredibly empowering when we’re in the mental space to receive it.

But when we are not – which is a very real part of most people’s experience – what do we do with our feelings?

When we feel shitty about a thing, afraid of an outcome, saddened (or devastated, even) by an experience, where do we go to lick our wounds?

Who is speaking about what to do when we’re not willing to hurry our feelings along, or to force-feed ourselves Iyanla Vanzant and Eckhart Tolle until we get to the better, easier feeling?

As the title of this piece implies, this is not a feel-good article.

Nothing in these lines is intended to help address negative thoughts in efforts to transform them into positive ones. Optimism has its place for sure, but there is no substitute for being present with our feelings.

It is in the spirit of authentic self-exploration and real self-expression that I offer you these three reasons to be okay with not being okay. But don’t worry – I’ve also included four options for accepting and expressing your real feelings, no matter what those feelings might be.

3 Radical Reasons to Be Okay with Not Being Okay

1. Sadness Is Not the Opposite of Self-Love

Sadness is a common emotion – and probably one of the most hurried-past experiences within the emotional spectrum.

Most of us view sadness as something that needs to be resolved or replaced with another (better) emotion. We are often asked whether we want to sit around and feel sad or brush it off and get on with our lives, as if those two things are opposing forces.

Sometimes we need to operate inside our emotions instead of trying to avoid them. In doing so, we avoid the toxicity of suppressed emotions and unmanaged hurt. 

The old idiom is true: Hurt people hurt people – and so we can protect ourselves from becoming toxic, uncompassionate people when we start with ourselves and offer honest assessment of our own feelings.

Feeling sad or lonely can be tough to be with, but we are not weak or wrong or broken for having those feelings. 

Trying to avoid these feelings can lead us to make decisions out of fear instead of honest consideration.

But allowing ourselves to feel those feelings makes us stronger and allows us to be honest about our environments. That honesty can lead to sound decision-making, rooted in a love and appreciation for our own wellbeing.

2. Naming Our Emotions Can Offer Access to Personal Power

Personal power, through my lens, is about a commitment to actively embracing who we are and setting our own goals based on whatever we need to feel well.

I use the term actively embracing as a means of placing emphasis on the “action” aspect of personal power. If we wait to react to society’s prompts from the Church of Positivity – or any of the other well meaning, but often harmful messages about emotional wellness – we surrender ourselves to the whims of media and loudmouths, and we risk losing our own power.

Personal power is not always about overcoming something or being the picture of strength and resilience.

It can also be about the stillness of being right where we are emotionally, and allowing that space to clue us in to whatever is happening in our world and whatever we need to feel in that moment.

As one of our editors, Melissa A. Fabello, noted in her helpful piece about communicating our feelings, broadening our emotional vocabulary can be an effective approach to authentically managing our feelings. The word bad, for example, is grossly misused in our emotional vocabulary.

Melissa’s article offers a great way to address the misuse of words that can potentially stifle our emotional process, and you might find it useful in your life:

When you’re feeling positively, try to avoid using the word ‘good’ to describe it. Are you feeling content? joyful? satisfied? loved? appreciative? Likewise, when you’re feeling negatively, try to use a more descriptive word than ‘bad.’ Is it afraid? incompetent? confused? inadequate?”

This is not an exercise in semantics; the words matter.

For example, if I were feeling sad about something that I thought I should have been over already, I’d probably experience some shame around still feeling sad. I would have then compounded my bad feelings just because I attached an expectation to my own emotional process.

That can be the catalyst for a harmful cycle of self-deprecation and rushing past pain in order to stop experiencing shame.

Name your emotions – because oftentimes, we carry even more guilt and shame around feeling our feelings than we do the actual feeling.

Making space to acknowledge your feelings is a great start to making peace with it..

3. Sometimes Encouragement Is More About (Their) Discomfort Than (Your) Healing

Frequently, the people closest to us encourage us to feel better as soon as we can, often doing so from a place of love.

They love us – and so they find it hard to see us feeling anything but good, which prompts them to go into fix-a-feeling mode. It’s because they care, and it’s because it’s a human tendency to avoid pain and to seek pleasure.

When we recognize that tendency, we can let our loved ones off the hook for being positivity pushers by using compassion and understanding for their perspectives without compromising our own needs.

We can do that by letting them know that we’re not ready for a different feeling (because that’s all it is, a different feeling – not necessarily a better one or a more helpful one).

We can also offer that same compassion to ourselves by recognizing our human tendency to want to pull away from discomfort and go towards feelings that are may feel easier to manage or that make people comfortable around us.

But that’s not our job.

We are not required to manage other people’s feelings along with our own. We are not charged with spreading cheer and love across the world.

We are here to be ourselves, to feel through our feelings, to get comfortable in our own skin, and to be honest with ourselves as consistently.

Of course, that can be easier said than done, so here are a few examples of ways to accept and express our real feelings.

4 Ways to Manage the Feelings

1. Use the Word Processing

It’s a total Easy Button move, and it’s often the honest truth.

When you get the inevitable “Are you okay?” or “How are you feeling?” you can simply say, “I’m processing. Thanks for asking.”

That way, you’re not offering up your exact feelings for discussion, nor are you saying something opposite of your current truth just to make things easier for you or them.

2. Make Space for Shared Discomfort 

If you’re willing to verbalize your right to feel your feelings, that choice often brings about a discomfort.

Most people aren’t comfortable with a perceived problem (your feelings) until they feel like it’s close to being solved.

If your relationship with the person can sustain honest conversation, let them know that you’re not okay – and that you don’t hold them accountable for changing that feeling.

Express it to them, so that they can witness you stand up for yourself in that way.

3. Have a ‘Sucky Feelings’ Ritual 

All our feelings deserve our attention, but not all of them should be part of our focus.

If you want to explore the potential aha moments around your seemingly sucky feelings, make space with words and images that honor those feelings. Image-rich social sites like Tumblr and Instagram can be hella cathartic for feeling our way through our emotions.

I like combing through playlists on Soundcloud when I’m mining my sadness. I also make up my own rituals so that I remember to be present with my own feelings.

For example, I have this ritual I do with my phone to watch and listen to myself as I make peace with whatever I’m feeling in that moment. It’s one of the ways I show up for myself without feeling any pressure to adjust my feelings in any way.

Try it out – or intuit your own ritual and see how you can be there for yourself more often.

4. Recognize a Tendency for Toxic Self-Talk 

Everyday Feminism’s founder, Sandra Kim, does a lot of work around healing and personal transformation.

She recommends a simple self-inquiry sentence as a means of getting present and being okay with our feelings.

Say or write the following sentence, filling in the blank with the most honest statement you can say about whatever emotions you are feeling: “I feel _____, and that’s okay.”

Standing in that assertion is a powerful way to bring yourself back to your right to feel – and to help you surrender to the pressure to rush yourself to a shallow healing.

The last two words in that sentence (that’s okay) offer a way to acknowledge that we’re not doing something wrong or bad by feeling how we feel.

Sandra often uses the example of feeling cold to illustrate the option to leave our feelings label-free. When we feel cold, that feeling is not bad or wrong (or good or right); it just is – and we can’t always change it right in that moment.

But as mindful beings with a full spectrum of emotions, we can acknowledge that while it may not feel great, it exists – and we are not broken because we feel the existence of the thing.

On Being in Favor of The Feels

For many of us, the tendency is to try to power up and push through any feelings we deem undesirable. It may even seem like an act of self-preservation to purposely stave off The Feels and opt instead for our daily dose of feel good now.

But is there a cost to this focus on positivity? Can we truly heal from hurt and pain if we are being pushed past our pain? Moreover, is the avoidance of tough emotions – such as hurt or pain – rooted in false notions of acceptable and “best to avoid” emotional self-expression?

Essentially, this is about being comfortable in our own skin and trusting ourselves to be present and resourceful enough to be honest with our feelings without drowning in them.

And even if we surrender to allowing perceived bad feelings to wash over us, we can trust ourselves enough to be right where we are, to feel how we feel, and to define healing on our own terms.

Akilah S. Richards is a Contributing Writer for Everyday Feminism. She is a six-time author, digital content writer, and lifestyle coach who writes passionately about self-expression, womanhood, modern feminism, location independence and the unschooling lifestyle. Connect with Akilah on InstagramTumblr, or her #radicalselfie e-home, radicalselfie.comRead her articles.

Mindfulness, Sleep, Older Adults

Mindfulness Meditation Appears to Help Improve Sleep Quality


JAMA Internal Medicine

Mindfulness meditation practices resulted in improved sleep quality for older adults with moderate sleep disturbance in a clinical trial comparing meditation to a more structured program focusing on changing poor sleep habits and establishing a bedtime routine, according to an article published online by JAMA Internal Medicine.

Sleep disturbances are a medical and public health concern for our nation’s aging population. An estimated 50 percent of individuals 55 years and older have some sort of sleep problem. Moderate sleep disturbances in older adults are associated with higher levels of fatigue, disturbed mood, such as depressive symptoms, and a reduced quality of life, according to the study background.

David S. Black, Ph.D., M.P.H., of the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, and coauthors conducted the small clinical trial in Los Angeles in 2012 and their analysis included 49 individuals (average age 66). The trial included 24 individuals who took part in a standardized mindful awareness practices (MAPs) intervention and 25 individuals who participated in a sleep hygiene education (SHE) intervention. Differences between the groups were measured using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI), a widely used self-reported questionnaire of sleep disturbances.

Participants in the MAPs group showed improvement relative to those in the SHE group. The MAPs group had average PSQI scores of 10.2 at baseline and 7.4 after the intervention. The SHE group had average PSQIs of 10.2 at baseline and 9.1 after the intervention, study results show. The MAPs group also showed improvement relative to the SHE group on secondary measures of insomnia symptoms, depression symptoms, fatigue interference and fatigue severity. However, differences between the groups were not seen for anxiety, stress or inflammatory signaling, a measure of which declined in both groups over time.

“According to our findings, mindfulness meditation appears to have a role in addressing the prevalent burden of sleep problems among older adults by remediating their moderate sleep disturbances and deficits in daytime functioning, with short-term effect sizes commensurate with the status quo of clinical treatment approaches for sleep problems. … Given that standardized mindfulness programs are readily delivered in many communities, dissemination efforts do not serve as a barrier in this instance. … Pending future replication of these findings, structured mindfulness mediation training appears to have at least some clinical usefulness to remediate moderate sleep problems and sleep-related daytime impairment in older adults,” the study concludes.

(JAMA Intern Med. Published online February 16, 2015. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.8081. Available pre-embargo to the media at

Editor’s Note: The study includes funding/support disclosures. Please see the article for additional information, including other authors, author contributions and affiliations, financial disclosures, funding and support, etc.

Commentary: Being Mindful of Later-Life Sleep Quality

In a related commentary, Adam P. Spira, Ph.D., of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, writes: “As the authors explain, effective nonpharmacological interventions that are both ‘scalable’ and ‘community accessible’ are needed to improve disturbed sleep and prevent clinical levels of insomnia. This is imperative given links between insomnia and poor health outcomes, risks of sleep medication use and the limited availability of health care professionals trained in effective nondrug treatments such as behavior therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia. This context makes the positive results of this RCT [randomized clinical trial] compelling.”

“This excellent study raises some questions that need to be answered in future research,” Spira continues

“In summary, Black et al are to be applauded for their intriguing study. Other community-based nonpharmacological interventions are needed that improve sleep and perhaps prevent insomnia among older adults. Such interventions may have a key role in safely reducing the morbidity associated with disturbed sleep in later life,” Spira concludes.

(JAMA Intern Med. Published online February 16, 2015. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.8093. Available pre-embargo to the media at

Editor’s Note: Please see the article for additional information, including other authors, author contributions and affiliations, financial disclosures, funding and support, etc.

#  #  #

For more information, contact JAMA Network Media Relations at 312-464-JAMA (5262) or email

Here’s the link to the article:

To “relax” regarding mindfulness.

Relaxing is really a very important component to one’s mindfulness practice.  But I’m not talking about relaxing like calming down.  What’s meant here is more of an attitude of relaxation, meaning that whatever you encounter during the mindfulness session, you allow without struggle, kind of a -breathe through it- approach or a -relax into it-.  You can do this even with anxiety itself!  But how can one be relaxed about being stressed?

Here’s how I do it.  First I take a couple of deep breaths to signal my mind that I’m settling into my body, taking time the sense the sinking in, the settling down.  Then I do a body scan.  I go from head to foot.  Depending on how much time you have, you can do this in big chunks like head, arms, back, legs, etc, or  many tiny part like eyebrows, temples, ears, and so on.   I’m scanning for the sensation in the body part.  The  sensations may be heat, tingling, aching, etc.  Notice what ever there is.  I also notice if I feel positive, negative or neutral about the sensation.  If I notice stress or tightness, I try to relax that body part if I can.  If I can’t, I note it (ie., jaw is tense) and let it be.  After the scan there’s usually body parts that are indeed relaxed, maybe not all. But I note the sensation of relaxation in those body part.  And I rest in the awareness of the total body, noticing the relaxed parts and the non-relaxed parts.

Usually at this time, and this may not necessarily happen for you*, I begin to notice my anxiety (if there is any).  I notice it because my body is relatively calm and the contrast of the anxiety sensations next to the sensations of calm is striking.  I notice the sensations of anxiety.  For me it’s a lot of thoughts, some tightness in my chest, etc.

Then I go back to noticing my body and sense the calm.  I begin to toggle from the calm of my body to the sensations of the anxiety.  I ask my self, “Can I stay in the calm of most of my body and just notice and allow (meaning relax) the sensations of anxiety?”

If it happens, it is an amazing experience.  I find I am able to be relaxed and be with my anxiety.  The benefits of this practice is that one can learn to be with any feeling or sensation, comfortable or uncomfortable and be relaxed.  The implications in everyday life are that when you are confronted with difficulties, you can train yourself to relax while you handle them.  Your approach to life itself is more relaxed. You gain a confidence at handling things.  It’s a skill worth having to strike a balance between stress and calm.

*Note:  Each experience is individual.  Just because this is the way it goes for me does not mean that’s the way it will go for you.  Never-the-less, try the practice and be curious about the outcome.  I’m eager to hear your experiences and what works and doesn’t work for you.

Happy First Day of Spring!


Small Bits of Daily Mindfulness

Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, MFT, CPC  blogs at some good advice:

meditation retreats

For two weeks I have been telling clients and friends I am leaving for my annual Vipassana tomorrow.  Vipassana is a 10-day silent retreat filled with nothing but meditation.  Lots of meditation and really getting to know yourself.  So far just about everyone I tell says the same two things:

“I don’t think I could ever do that”

“Why would anyone ever do that?” 

People come to Vipassana for many reasons including clarity, release, focus, solitude, wisdom, or peace (and so many more).  For ten days you slow down and live a secular monastic life eating vegetarian, walking and mostly meditating with complete focus on your breath.  The solo journey means no eye contact or interrupting other meditators on their paths.  It also means no distractions like writing, reading, or exercising.

While this kind of immersion isn’t for everyone, the basic concept: silent meditation and mindfulness has been proven to have many health and wellness benefits.  Specifically mindfulness meditation helps manage pain, increase awareness, manage emotional outbursts, and can greatly increase happiness.

So you can take your own mini meditation at home by practicing mindfulness even in a short amount of time.

You really don’t need anything to practice mindfulness, just a space to sit, the ability to breathe, and a willingness to try.  To get started just get comfortable so you don’t have to move or shift around too much and clear your head of everything but the present moment.  Keep silent and focus on your breath.  Notice what you are thinking and what sensations you feel in your body.  You don’t have to change them, just notice what they are.  You can also do this by focusing on one small thing.  It helps to have a minute (or five minute) timer so you don’t have to check the time.

How can you practice mindfulness meditation without enrolling in a full Vipassana?  Try these ten easy mindfulness practices to improve your well being.

1. Caffeine Steam Meditation

Sit and watch your morning coffee steam for one full minute.  Notice the way it swirls and changes.  Watch the heat rise and feel the warmth of the cup.  If your mind wanders just bring your focus back to the steam.

2.  Shower Meditation

Stand still in your morning shower for one full minute.  Notice the way the water feels on your body.  Is it hot?  Are you cold?  Are some parts of you easier to get in touch with than others?  If your mind wanders just bring your focus back to the water.

3.  Fall Leaves Meditation

Lay in a park with fall trees (or your yard if you have one) and watch the leaves fall for one full minute.  Notice the changes in the branches.  Watch the leaves swirl and change.  If your mind wanders just bring your focus back to the leaves.

4. Full Moon Meditation

Sit under the full moon in silent observation for one full minute.  Can you feel the moonlight on your skin?  Notice your breath.  If your mind wanders just bring your focus back to the moon.

5. Bedtime Meditation

Lay still in your bed for one full minute.  Notice the way the blankets and sheets feel against your body.  Observe your breath as it rises and falls.  If your mind wanders just bring your focus back to your breath.

6. MP3 Meditation

Set your MP3 player on shuffle and listen to whatever song, podcast, or book starts playing for the whole song (or five minutes if it is a full book).  Notice the notes, tunes, and nuances.  Notice how you feel and how your breath is impacted by the piece.  If your mind wanders just bring your focus back to the music.

7.  Mindful Brushing Meditation

Pay close attention as you brush your teeth sloooooowly.  Taste and smell the toothpaste and  notice the textures in your mouth.  Observe the process of tooth brushing closely.  If your mind wanders just bring your focus back to your brush.

8. Mindful Dishes Meditation

Use your daily dish scrubbing as a mindfulness practice.  Watch and feel the motion of scrubbing the dishes.   Feel the suds and water with your fingertips.  Be in the moment, aware and present. Don’t simply clean on auto-pilot as you usually would, feel your way through the routine with clarity.

9. Two Bite Meditation

Try mindful eating only the first two bites of any meal or snack.  Pay attention to your sensory experiences – the texture, taste, smell, and appearance of the food, and the sounds when you eat.  Just pay attention to your full experience in a nonjudgmental way.

10. Closed Eye Meditation

Close your eyes for one full minute.  Notice what you see.  Observe your breath.  If your mind wanders just bring your focus back to the back of your eyelids.

Try mindfulness meditation this week and leave a comment to let us know how it goes!

Yeah, let her know and let me know.  🙂

The Joy of Just Being

I’ve been reading a book called The Trauma of Everyday Life by Mark EpstienIMG_0593, MD. It’s a very thoughtful analysis, particularly regarding mindfulness.   I highly recommend it if you have a lean toward psychology. It’s got me thinking about being mindful of feelings, especially the joy of being.

As Epstien says, feelings can be pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. And they can be based in the body (sensual) or in the mind.

Feelings based in the body are produced by activation of the senses – the eyes, ears, nose, mouth and/or body. These are feelings like heat, tingling, pain, etc. Feelings that are not senses-based are based in the mind. For example, fear, jealousy, joy, boredom, just to name a few.

Whether we’re aware of it or not feelings are always present. They are constantly arising and passing throughout our day, and probably in our dreams. We are continually evaluating and reacting to them. Much of this happens outside of our awareness. We may like them and do things to prolong them or get them come back. We may dislike them and unconsciously push them away through actions or thoughts. We can also miss them entirely if they are neutral.

Have you experienced the joy of just being? This is a non senses-based pleasant feeling.

Say you unexpectedly had a moment to sit down, maybe in a nature setting. As you settle in and begin relax you start to notice the smell of the breeze, the sounds of the birds. Maybe things become more vivid. You never noticed how green the lawn was or how beautiful the formation of clouds can be. Then all of a sudden you just experience a calm acceptance, a light feeling of peaceful connection and peace. Of course this is my version and it’s hard to do it justice. But for me this is the joy of just being. Hopefully you get the idea.

It is one of THE most pleasant and enjoyable feelings. In my opinion, it is essential to making life feel worth it.  It’s a feeling that is available to us, yet because it is very subtle, it is one that we usually miss. It’s a huge gift of life that goes overlooked so often. It’s one of the real benefits of practicing the way we do. But we need to practice being mindful to feel it more often. I encourage you to keep practicing so that you can increase the occurrence of this feeling and add more joy to your life.

I’d really like to hear your version of the joy of just being, how you came about it or if you’ve never had the experience. That’s OK too. We’re here to just be with what is. Please share with me in the comments. And have a really good day!