One Belief at a Time

“A thought is harmless unless we believe it. It is not our thoughts, but the attachment to our thoughts, that causes suffering. Attaching to a thought means believing that it’s true, without inquiring. A belief is a thought that we’ve been attaching to, often for years.” – Byron Katie

belief
Dysfunctional Beliefs

Beliefs help us navigate the gray areas of life when there is no right or wrong answer. When they put us in harmony with ourselves and others, they are functional. When they routinely create stress and suffering, they are dysfunctional

The authors of the original mindfulness manual offer guidelines on which thoughts fit which category. But, instead of asking us to accept these guidelines as truth, they ask us to test them like scientists and find out for ourselves.

Rationalizing Not Rational 

Unfortunately, once we hold a belief, we become lousy scientists. Our minds become spin doctors looking for every shred of evidence supporting our belief and disregarding everything that doesn’t.

Nobel Laureate: I’m a failure.

Journalist: What do you mean? You just won the Nobel Prize.

Nobel Laureate: I fooled them this time, but I’m still a failure.

We may not be rational, but we’re all expert rationalizers.

Have You Read? 

“Have you read Byron Katie?” a woman at Social Club asked me.

“No, what does he say?”

“She.” 

“Okay, what does she say?”

People ask me all the time if I’ve read _________. Countless entrepreneurs have repackaged the various wisdom traditions over the millennia and sold kernels of truth under their brand. (Full disclosure: my brand is moving from depression to well-being.)

When the name Byron Katie kept popping up in conversations, I decided to look at her sales pitch.

Byron Katie’s Pitch

It’s slick.

It’s portentously called The Work.

Her slogan is: 

Judge your neighbor. 

Write it down. 

Ask four questions.

Turn it around.

Her scientific method for testing beliefs is filling out one- and two-page worksheets printable from her website:

Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet 

and 

One-Belief-at-a-Time Worksheet

Sounds too simple, right?  

Judging Our Neighbors 

If The Work is this simple, I should be able to refute it by the end of this blog post. 

Katie suggests that since we have much more practice pronouncing judgment on others than on ourselves, we should start by judging our neighbors.

I’ll start by judging Byron Katie with the One-Belief-at-a-Time worksheet. 

One-Belief-at-a-Time Worksheet

The Work – A Written Meditation

Instructions: On the line below, write down a stressful concept about someone (alive or dead) whom you haven’t forgiven 100 percent. (For example, “He doesn’t care about me.”) Then question the concept in writing, using the following questions and turnarounds. (Use additional paper as needed.) When answering the questions, close your eyes, be still, and witness what appears to you. Inquiry stops working the moment you stop answering the questions.

I have a low opinion of charlatans, so I’ll use that belief.

Belief: Byron Katie is a false prophet for profit.

Ask Four Questions

1. Is It True?

I suspect that it’s true. It’s highly unlikely that she’s a genuine prophet. I’ll say yes. 

2. Can You Absolutely Know That It’s True? (Yes or no.) 

Well, I’m still filling out the sheet so I haven’t proved it yet. No.

3. How Do You React, What Happens When You Believe That Thought?

I feel sorry for the gullible people she fleeces.

a. Does that thought bring relief or stress into your life? 

I feel judgmental about the avarice of charismatic leaders and pity for their prey.

b. What images do you see, past and future, and what physical sensations arise as you think that thought and witness those images?

It bothers me how some charismatic leaders spend their money in misanthropic ways. Tony Robbins bought a massive beachfront mansion in Fiji to get away from people. 

I recently watched Wild Wild Country on Netflix about the Osho followers in Central Oregon. Osho wore a million dollar watch and had over 90 Rolls Royces. 

I feel a tightening in my chest area when I think about this kind of conspicuous consumption.

c. What emotions arise when you believe that thought? (Refer to the Emotions List, available on thework.com.)

I prefer to keep my emotional labels simple, like pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. High or low energy. But, I’ll play along and choose faultfinding from the judgmental category.

d. Do any obsessions or addictions begin to appear when you believe that thought? (Do you act out on any of the following: alcohol, drugs, credit cards, food, sex, television, computers?) 

My aggravation isn’t so strong that it provokes a coping mechanism. 

Whoa: I think I just found a weak link in the emotions list. Aggravation seems a more accurate label than faultfinding.

e. How do you treat the person in this situation when you believe the thought? How do you treat other people and yourself?

I have a level of disgust and disregard toward the person. My feeling for their prey leans toward condescension. As P.T. Barnum said, “You can’t cheat an honest man.”

f. Who would you be without the thought? Who or what are you without the thought?

If Byron Katie’s worksheets actually help people investigate their beliefs, I would be thankful. I would add The Work to my toolkit. I would recommend her work to people who could benefit from it. If I had to choose an emotion from the emotion list, I would go with grateful under the loving category.

Turn the Thought Around

Possible Turnarounds. 

1. To the self. 

I am a false prophet for profit.

2. To the other. 

I am falsely judging Byron Katie.

3. To the opposite.

Byron Katie is not a false prophet for profit.

Three Specific Examples

Then find at least three specific, genuine examples of how each turnaround is true for you in this situation.

For each turnaround, go back and start with the original statement. 

Byron Katie is a false prophet for profit.

1. I am a false prophet for profit. 

In my advertising days, I got paid for some concepts that were less successful than I predicted they would be.

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is currently acknowledged as the gold standard for helping people between major depressive episodes prevent relapses. While adding these tested mental well-being exercises should make healthier responses to stress more common, I haven’t tested this with clinical studies.

I would like to earn some money by turning these posts into a structured course so that I can continue to do them. I don’t see myself buying a fleet of Rolls Royces or a private island, but I can’t be sure that I won’t.

2. I am falsely judging Byron Katie. 

In filling out this worksheet, I haven’t encountered any claims that this is the key to wealth or success or eternal salvation, so it’s possible that Byron Katie isn’t positioning herself as a prophet.

The worksheets and a $0.99 app are available on her website, so it’s possible that she’s motivated by something other than profit.

I did a quick Google search on Byron Katie critics. Psychotherapists say that The Work is not a substitute for psychotherapy, but Katie doesn’t claim that it is. A site called Christian Answers is strongly opposed, but many Christians view mindfulness meditation as the work of the devil.

3. Byron Katie is not a false prophet for profit.    

The authors of the original mindfulness manual advocated cultivating awareness of dysfunctional beliefs and replacing them with their opposites. This is easier to do on paper than in our heads.

The approach is consistent with an idea that occurs in most wisdom traditions: we tend to criticize others for flaws that we are blind to in ourselves.

The authority figure who convinced me to look into Byron Katie is the eastern scholar and translator Stephen Mitchell. He was so impressed with how Byron Katie’s work fit in with the tenets of the wisdom traditions that he married her.

Ten Minute Exercise

I find that the principles behind the worksheets are consistent with traditional mindfulness techniques. The major innovation is writing thoughts down instead of watching them in the wilds of the mind.

But, please, don’t take my word for it. Do try this at home.   

It took me longer than ten minutes to fill out a worksheet, but you can download either the Judge-Your-Neighbor or One-Belief-at-a-Time worksheets and watch the video on how to fill them out.

For further evidence, I recommend the book Loving What Is by Byron Katie and Stephen Mitchell. Check your local library if you’re skeptical about the “profit” part.

FAIR Consent

Practicing FAIR consent is a powerful tool for reducing unwanted sexual interactions. Practicing consent in everyday life can lead to richer, more rewarding relationships and emotional resilience.

consent only yes is yes
A Tragic She Said/He Said     

The “Why Now?” episode of the podcast Hidden Brain focuses on the social forces that led to the emergence of the #metoo movement. But it also offers a rare glimpse into both sides of a non-consensual sexual encounter that demonstrates the vast gulf between intention and impact.

The “she said” below is an excerpt from a Facebook post. The “he said” is an apology left on the woman’s answering machine when he learned about the post.

She Said

“In the beginning of June I had a meeting with a playwright in my home. He is my senior by several decades. I’ve known him since I was 11, I regarded him as an honorary grandfather. I was going through a tough time, I had just dealt with a couple of deaths and this man offered to help me by gifting me some of his work to produce and act in. I was extremely grateful and excited.

He insisted he come to my apartment for the meeting. The door closed and he held my breasts and said he’s known me since I was so young and can’t believe how large and beautiful they had become. He pulled me onto his lap and licked my lips and tried sticking his tongue in my mouth several times. I felt frozen. I said ‘I have a boyfriend,’ he said ‘So? I have a wife.’ I felt like I was 5 years old. The way I always hoped I’d behave in a situation went right out the window. I needed to get him off me and out of my home, but I also wanted to protect his feelings. I can’t believe to this day that was a concern of mine.”

He Said

“Uh, (Woman’s Name), this is (Playwright’s Name) calling. I’m so upset. I…I don’t know what to say. I had no idea. It’s a terrible, terrible misunderstanding. There’s a terrible missed signal. And I didn’t know you were upset. I love you, (Woman’s Name), and I never, never would hurt you that way. Never, never, never. Please, you’ve gotta believe me. Oh my God, I’m just shaking. Somebody just wrote to me and told me about it. I don’t know what to say. I’m so sorry. And I love you. And I would never, never, never hurt you that way. That was such a missed signal and such a…oh my God.”

Terrible Missed Signal

I’m younger than the playwright in the situation above, so I probably received a more comprehensive sex education that he did. My school-sanctioned education was limited to the biology of reproduction and the risk of sexually transmitted diseases. My workplace sexual harassment training preached abstinence from saying or doing anything even remotely suggestive of sex. Other messages I’ve heard over the years have focused on “no means no.”

In the absence of consent training, the way the woman always hoped she’d behave went right out the window. Instead of the man taking anything short of a yes as a no, he took anything short of no as a yes.

A FAIR Approach to Consent

Samantha Hess began leading Consent Workshops in early 2018 and I’ve attended most of them.

Though adapted from the FRIES sexual consent acronym of Planned Parenthood, the exercises for FAIR consent are all non-sexual. Attendees are often eager to share their takeaways with their children or grandchildren.    

Consent is about learning to receive a no without feeling rejected and give a no without feeling guilty.

In order for there to be consent, it has to be FAIR.

Freely given.

Agreeable.

Informed.

Reversible.

Freely Given

The “No, Thank You Exercise” demonstrates that consent isn’t consent if someone can’t say no.

Partners take turns making requests:

“I know we’ve just met, but can I borrow $100?”

“Can my kids borrow your place for a birthday party? I don’t like to clean up the mess.”

The person receiving the request takes time to seriously consider the offer, then respond with some version of “No, thank you.”

The asker then practices sincerely praising the decision.

“Thank you for taking care of yourself.”

“Thank you for allowing me to ask.”

This gives the asker practice at receiving a no and the responder practice at saying no without feeling obligated for offering a reason.

Agreeable

In the “Ask and Wait” exercise partners take turns making requests of each other that they will actually engage in if both parties agree, they then patiently await a response.

“Would you like to shake hands?”

“Would you like to tell me something about your day?”

This gives the asker practice at the risk of receiving a no. It gives the responder practice at checking in with themselves before agreeing to something that they may not want to do. They can then freely give the answer that they choose.

Informed

In the “Negotiation Exercise,” partners take turns making requests of each other, clarifying the terms of the request, and practicing “yes and” or “no but” until they come to a consensual agreement.

“Would you like to shake hands?”

“No, but I’ll give you a high five.”

“Yes, and can we use our left hands?”

This gives both parties the opportunity to practice asking for what they want from an agreeable action and declining actions that are disagreeable.

Reversible

For the “Change Your Mind Exercise,” partners begin by engaging in a mutually agreed upon activity.

After a short time, either partner displays a lack of interest in continuing and the other tries to pick up on the body language or facial cues that indicate they’ve changed their mind.

They then share feedback on the cues given and received and change roles.

This gives us practice making others feel safe around us by letting them know that we honor their decision to change their minds.

Practicing Consent

Practicing the principles of FAIR consent in areas other than sex leads to healthier relationships. If we routinely say yes when we mean no, we begin to resent others for asking and ourselves for giving in. Failing to ask for something because we fear rejection may unnecessarily limit our possibilities. If we say yes with the intention of wiggling out later, we become untrustworthy.

FAIR consent isn’t about always getting our way. It’s ultimately about doing what’s best for all parties involved.

Ten Minute Exercise

Two videos (that you can watch in less than ten minutes) help illustrate consent best practices.

When it comes to sex, anything short of a yes is a no. Tea and Consent (2:49).

Outside of sex, overcoming the fear of rejection can lead to an unexpected yes. Ask for Olympic Symbol Doughnuts (5:13).

Digesting Emotional Eating

“One of the most common causes of overeating and weight gain is difficulty regulating our emotions, our moods, our thoughts, and even disruptive impulses and behaviors.” – Julie M. Simon

emotional eating 

The One You Feed

It’s ironic that my first shout-out to Eric Zimmer and Chris Forbes’s The One You Feed podcast is literally about how we feed ourselves.

Mr. Zimmer starts each of his interviews by asking his guests what this parable means in their life and work.

There’s a grandmother talking with her granddaughter, and she says, “In life there are two wolves inside of us that are always at battle. One is a good wolf, which represents things like kindness, and bravery, and love. And the other is a bad wolf, which represents things like greed, and hatred, and fear.”

And the granddaughter stops and she thinks about it for a second, looks up at her grandmother, and says, “Well, grandmother? Which one wins?”

And the grandmother says, “The one you feed.”

What We Feed Our Wolves

Julie M. Simon, author of When Food is Comfort: Nurture Yourself Mindfully, Rewire Your Brain, and End Emotional Eating, answers that every day of our lives we have pleasant and unpleasant experiences. We react with emotions and bodily sensations, including muscle tension, butterflies in the stomach, and thoughts.

These reactions can lead to self-defeating thoughts, moods like anxiety and excessive sadness, hopelessness, and despair, which all feed the bad wolf.

Or we can develop habits to respond with self-compassion, self-acceptance, and self-love that feed the good wolf.

De-Regulation

The underlying cause of emotional eating is our brain’s inability to modulate our nervous system’s response to emotions and moods. This robs us of the ability to think before we act.

In order to self-regulate, we need to have the upstairs part of our brain (the logical, calming, reasoning part, aka the regulator) properly wired to the downstairs part (our emotion center).

Ms. Simon talks about the role our infancy plays in this crucial wiring. If our parents are skillful nurturers, they attune to our needs by interpreting our cries of distress: hunger, indigestion, soiled diaper, fear, pain, worry.

As we acquire language, our parents help us find language to interpret our emotions: like sadness, anger, frustration, loneliness. This allows us to co-regulate our responses by communicating our feelings so that our parents can customize solutions: giving us a hug, teaching us to take a few deep breaths, offering reassurance, or arranging a play date.

This early nurturing forges connections between the brain’s regulator and emotion center, giving us the neuronal pathways and emotional intelligence we need to right our ship after an emotional storm.

The Missing Link of Co-Regulation

What many of us who turn to overeating miss out on is this co-regulation phase.

It wouldn’t be fair to blame our parents for this because the science on co-regulation’s role in early brain development is twenty-first century stuff. If our early role models learned the virtues of comforting themselves with  food, they likely passed them on to us.

Beyond the evolutionary caloric allure of comfort food, we may have learned to associate cake with birthday parties, cookies with Christmas presents, trips to get ice cream with good report cards.   

Disconnection

The good news about emotional eating is that it works! It temporarily makes us feel better.

If I accidentally hit myself with a hammer, eating a bag of potato chips will make me feel better.

Instead of beating ourselves up for our inability to resist comfort food, Ms. Simon suggests that we should congratulate ourselves for our resourcefulness. Not only isn’t it our fault that we missed out on early brain development, we engineered a workaround.     

The Disconnection Problem

The problem with emotional eating, according to Ms. Simon, is that emotions and bodily sensations are like street signs that point us in the direction of our needs. Disconnecting with comfort food shuts down the signal without decoding the message.

Addictions are responses to unmet needs that come with short-term benefits but long term consequences.

To develop more effective coping skills with fewer side effects, and to begin meeting our needs, we must learn to reconnect to our emotions.

How to Re-Connect

Fortunately, the brain never stops rewiring itself in response to our experiences. We can learn to connect our regulating and emotional brain centers even as adults.

You may not be able to teach an old dog new tricks, but you can teach an old human.   

A Rewiring Manual

Ms. Simon’s book offers seven steps for learning self-nurturing to develop a supportive inner voice. I’m eager to test drive her exercises to learn her approach to topics I’ve explored on this site.

  1. Pop the Hood: Name and Track Emotions and Bodily Sensations.
  2. Practice Self-Validation
  3. Reinforce the Alliance and Offer Love, Support, and Comfort
  4. Get Clear on Needs
  5. Catch and Reframe Self-Defeating Thoughts
  6. Highlight Resources and Provide Hope
  7. Address Needs and Set Nurturing Limits
Ten Minute Exercise

Chade-Meng Tan’s Search Inside Yourself offers an exercise to notice the emotions that trigger over eating. It’s called SiBerian North RailRoad (STOP, BREATHE, NOTICE, REFLECT, RESPOND) .

  1. Find a place where you won’t be interrupted for ten minutes.
  2. Set a timer to remind you when you’re done.
  3. Take three deep breaths to settle the mind.
  4. Let your awareness follow your in and and out breaths.
  5. Bring to mind a recent experience that triggered emotional eating. Try to relive the event and the related sensations as fully as you can.
  6. At the moment you find yourself trying to escape the feeling: STOP.
  7. BREATHE slow, deep breaths with full exhales for at least thirty seconds.
  8. NOTICE any difference of tension or temperature that the emotion creates in your face, neck, shoulders, chest, back, etc. Experience the emotion as a physiological phenomenon, not as a state of being:
    “I’m experiencing anger in my body” instead of “I am angry.”
  9. If this emotion is triggered by another person’s actions, put yourself in the position of that person looking out at you. REFLECT that everybody wants to be happy. This person thinks acting this way will make him/her happy. Don’t judge whether this person is right or wrong in this belief.
  10. Bring to mind the kindest most positive RESPONSE (other than eating) to this situation. Don’t worry about actually doing it. Take a minute to craft a response.
  11. Return to the present moment with awareness of the breath until the timer sounds.
  12. Take a moment to notice how your mind and body feel right now before continuing with your day.

To learn more about Julie M. Simon’s approach: here’s a five-minute video on emotional eating.

Human Thought and Animal Emotion

Lizards and mice and monkeys, oh my. When our human thought and animal emotion are at odds, it’s easy to get depressed. But learning techniques to tame the animals in our head can help us achieve greater well-being.

human thought

Monkey Mind

One of the oldest analogies for what goes on in my brain when I’m unable to focus is monkey mind. I swing from one thought to another while my medial prefrontal cortex flails to concentrate and put the critter back in its cage. My human thought may think it’s in charge, but, from an evolutionary standpoint, it’s the new kid on the block. If I don’t use it to understand what’s going on in my more established, primordial brain regions, my animal emotions will take the driver’s seat.

Taxi Driver

Author Rick Hanson motivated me to take my monkey mind seriously by introducing me to the brain of a London taxi driver. Memorizing how to navigate London’s tangle of streets and landmarks enlarges the spacial memory center of the driver’s brain much like weight training enlarges our muscles.

That metaphor for how changing my thoughts changes my brain was the incentive I needed to incorporate the original mindfulness exercises into my daily routine.

An animal analogy Hanson used in his latest book Resilient is similarly useful for understanding and satisfying the emotion centers in my brain.

Animal Emotion

Abraham Maslow imagined a pyramid to illustrate our hierarchy of needs. But in the twenty-first century, brain scans are revealing that our emotional centers are much more like a zoo than a king’s tomb. And thinking of the brain in animal terms paints a more accurate picture of what’s going on in our skull right now.

Lizard Brain

When things go bump in the night, the first responder is lizard brain, ready to fight, flee or freeze.

Lizard Brain fight, flight or freeze

We sometimes tease our lizard brain by going to horror movies for jump scares or riding roller coasters. In controlled settings, tricking the lizard into releasing adrenaline is a rush. It’s easy under such circumstances for our rational brain to assure this animal emotion that the threat is not real. A sigh of relief or a good laugh will do it.

When we perceive a threat is genuine, whether it’s real or imagined, the adrenaline rush is just as thrilling but not as fun. Our lizard brain takes control.

Mouse Brain

I crave cheese enough to put in on my grocery list when I’m running low. But I don’t crave it nearly as much as a mouse.

mouse brain cravings

We sometimes use our mouse brain to crave things other than cheese. Social media engineers at Facebook constantly retool their interface to entice this animal emotion of craving. Netflix cues up another show as soon as one draws to a close.

To understand how your own mouse brain works, complete these sentences.

I crave __________ like a mouse craves cheese.

When I crave _________, mouse brain’s at the wheel.

Monkey Brain

The brain region that constantly updates our relationship status with all the members of our tribe is something we share with apes (who don’t have tails) and monkeys (who do). It’s the animal emotion of belonging.

monkey brain relationships

Monkey brain is always on the lookout for clues it’s fitting in with friends, connected to family, and has enough status within the tribe to attract a mate.

Monkey brain takes precedence when we fear being shunned by our tribe.

Imaginary Mind

According to social psychologist Dan Gilbert, humans are the only animal that thinks about the future and has the ability to imagine events.

Our imagination of what ifs led to science and western medicine (to patch lizard brain’s body up when we unsuccessfully fight, flee or freeze). We’ve streamlined the production of cheese and refrigeration so that mouse brain can always satisfy its craving. We’ve invented social media and texting so that monkey brain can monitor its relationships 24/7.

Imaginary Stress

But, according to Gilbert, our human brain is notoriously unsuccessful at imagining what will make us happy.

We imagine all the negative, frustrating, or futile things that will happen if we interact with others. This tricks lizard brain with our social anxiety and we remain frozen in our home, our room, or our bed.

We imagine the pleasure promised by the shiny objects we see advertised. But no matter how much we accumulate or how far in debt we go to buy them, mouse brain is never satisfied.

We imagine that staying in touch with friends and family via social media or texting is the best thing since, well, cheese. But somehow when they don’t text back immediately, or like our posts, we feel unloved. And even when they do respond, our monkey brain senses something’s missing.

Over Simulation

“A person who thinks all the time has nothing to think about except thought,” British philosopher Alan Watts said, “So he loses touch with reality, and lives in a world of illusions.”

We have an advantage over our animal cousins when it comes to the future. But if we skillfully interpret our primordial drives, they can teach us how to live in the now.   

Lizards who aren’t faced with actual peril know how to chill out. Mice may be on the lookout for cheese, but they don’t waste time seeking things that don’t provide real sustenance. Monkeys stay in actual physical touch with their community through grooming, which builds trust, reduces anxiety, and builds self-esteem.

Taming the Animals

To paraphrase Rick Hanson, satisfying our emotional needs involves using our imaginative problem solving skills to:

  • Calm the lizard.
  • Feed the mouse.
  • Hug the monkey.
Ten Minute Exercise

This exercise gives us practice at identifying our present emotional state to determine which critter is running the show. Once we’ve done that, we can employ our human imagination to satisfy our animal emotion.

1. Find a place where you won’t be interrupted for ten minutes.

2. Set a timer to remind you when you’re done.

3. Note how your mind and body feel right now.

4. Take a few deep breaths to establish where you notice the sensation of breathing.

5. Breathe normally, calmly awaiting any emotion that might arise.

6. When an emotion arises, pay close attention to its animal characteristics.

Calming the Lizard

If there’s a sense of fight, flight, or freeze in the body. Calm the lizard.

The military trains in a box breathing technique to calm the lizard brain in times of actual physical danger.   

Breathe in through the nose while slowly counting to four. Hold the breath for a slow count of four. Exhale for a slow count of four. Pause for a count of four. Repeat at least three times or until the lizard is calm.

Tip: it’s important to habituate this in a controlled setting because the first thing lizard brain shuts down in the wild is your ability to remember this technique.

Here’s the military strength version for more detail.


Feeding the Mouse

If you experience craving. Feed the mouse.

When a healthy craving arises, such as a craving for food when you’re hungry, exercise, generosity, or friendly social interaction, think of a small, practical step you can take to fulfill it before returning your attention to the breath.

When unhealthy cravings arise for things that merely distract us without satisfying us, like substance abuse, junk food, or the latest, coolest shiniest thing. Instead of feeding it, go SURFing instead.

See what’s happening. Notice how and where your body responds when you imagine the thing you crave.

Understand whether this craving is a skillful means to satisfy your current emotion or a convenient substitute. (Cigarette smoking relieves stress, but so does box breathing. Prescription pain killers can dull emotional pain, but so can group aerobic exercise.)   

Relax around it. Take some slow, deep breaths and be aware of the changing bodily sensations without giving in to them or trying to push them away.

Find a little freedom. Use the knowledge you gain from the above steps to choose the most skillful way to feed your mouse.

Here’s a quick holiday edition of this exercise by Dan Harris of the 10% Happier podcast.


Hugging the Monkey

If you experience social anxiety. Hug the monkey.

Place your flat palm over your heart. This activates the mammalian (monkey brain) care-giving system. People often do this automatically when someone shares news of a personal hardship with them.

Give yourself a hug and slowly stroke your hands on your arms.

For more self-soothing touch, this video has some tips.

And Kristen Neff has other ideas for practicing self-compassion.

7. When the timer sounds, note how your mind and body feel right now before you continue with your day.