Through the Eyes of a Child

Can you remember what it was like to experience the world when you were a child? Maybe you have a young person in your life now or have had the experience of spending time with a child recently. In either case, thinking back and reflecting on how a child experiences the world can be a useful avenue to connect with a greater sense of awe and gratitude.  

At a certain age, many adults stop playing and become more attuned to responsibilities. The focus shifts to what needs to get accomplished and our attention can become scattered as we manage the demands of everyday life. We tend to become more analytical and less vulnerable or risk averse. We may sometimes struggle more with relationships and personal insecurities. Although there are clearly benefits to being responsible and conscientious, it can be argued that something important is at risk of being lost.

If you have the chance, take a moment to watch or spent time with a child. Notice the authenticity, laughter, joy, and vulnerability. Notice how children get excited to the point of shaking with enthusiasm at what might seem like a small thing. Notice how children connect to an innate and pervasive sense of creativity and play with little or no concern for appearance or concern about what others think. Notice how children remain open to the impact of the world on their soft hearts and minds.  

Children are often endlessly fascinated and bring an innocent and loving sensibility that can be helpful to revisit. Do you recall what it was like to get your first bike or go swimming in the deep end of the pool? Do you recall catching bugs or your first fish? Did you have a favorite toy? Do you recall how you may have longed to someday drive a car or cook your own dinner? Did you measure each inch of your growth? Do you remember the excitement you felt when traveling to a new place or returning to school?

Practice seeing through the eyes of a child:

  1. Approach everything as new or experienced for the first time.
  2. View everything, particularly challenges, as learning experiences. 
  3. View everyone you meet as a potential new friend.
  4. Pick up a rock or an acorn and take a closer look.
  5. Listen to music, play instruments and dance.  
  6. Let go of thoughts and worries related to how others might view you.
  7. Pay close attention to little details, wild animals, and helicopters. 
  8. Engage your imagination and creativity through stories and art projects.
  9. Look at the stars and wonder about space.  
  10. Connect with a sense that everything and anything is possible in your life.

Take a few moments to practice some of these suggestions and see through the eyes of a child. Notice the fascination, joy, creativity and presence. Connect with the sense of amazement that children experience and allow yourself to feel intrigued and grateful about life. Everything is new, everything is possible, everything is a learning experience, everyone is a potential new friend, and the world is full of possibilities.

Dr. Thomas Lindquist, Psy.D.

Licensed Clinical Psychologist

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Do the Opposite & Act “as if”

The alarm rings again and it’s time to face the day. You may feel tired when you think of handling daily challenges, sad about a range of difficulties in your life, or discouraged by recent setbacks. It is reasonable that you would experience a strong desire to hit snooze and avoid getting out of bed. In this way our feelings lead to an avoidance behavior that can actually make it more difficult to deal with such challenges, while increasing our fears and anxiety. This is not uncommon.    

The following skills from Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and Adlerian psychotherapy, respectively, can be helpful for moving through difficult emotions by changing our behavior.  

Opposite Action

Use Opposite Action when you know that it is more effective not to give in to the emotional urge, such as hitting the snooze button. This means engaging in the opposite of what our emotion is telling us to do, if it makes sense to do so.  

The first step for Opposite Action is to recognize and identify your emotion. Are you angry, sad, or fearful? Next, identify the urge or desire to behave in a certain way. Do you have an urge to isolate yourself and avoid, hit snooze, or act out by criticizing a loved one?  

After this comes the trickier part of identifying whether or not the urge or behavior fits the situation. If you are angry, does it make sense to raise your concerns with a significant other or would it be better to walk away and take a break? What past experiences can inform this decision? If you feel sad, does it make sense to isolate yourself or would it be better to experience the success of overcoming challenges and the connection of reaching out for support from a friend? Can you think of a time when you successfully overcame a challenge or reached out and felt supported? This is not to say you shouldn’t feel how you feel. The goal is to examine your urge or reaction and determine if it would be more helpful to do the opposite.   

The final step is to do the opposite of what your urge is telling you. Get out of bed, call a friend, or challenge yourself to walk away from a tense situation. You may try something small such as getting up for a drink of water or taking a few deep breathes before you make a phone call. If there is no real threat and you are capable of handing the task at hand, move towards your fears and do things to increase your sense of control and mastery. 

Acting “as if”

Acting “as if” is a useful compliment to Opposite Action. In the case of avoidance, begin by imagining yourself successfully confronting your fears. You can also try imaging someone you think of as confident and connect with the image of that person confronting a similar fear. How would this person act or handle the challenge? How do they walk and talk? What actions or behaviors take place? Do you feel any different as you imagine being successful in this way? 

Once you have thought through and imaged such as scenario, act as if it were true. Act as if you were already successful in facing your fears and act as if you were confident. If it still seems difficult to imagine yourself in this way, try acting as if you were a person in your life you view as confident. You could even pretend you are auditioning for a role in a play. 

As you act in such as a way it is likely that you will begin to feel different. As you do the opposite action of avoidance and move towards your fears while acting confident, you may find yourself beginning to achieve mastery over your emotions as well as the challenges that contribute to your fears.  

Our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors all interact. When we focus on changing a behavior and put this behavior into action, it can have a positive impact on how we think and feel. Next time you find yourself wanting to give in to an urge despite knowing that it is probably not helpful in the long run, such as hitting the snooze button, consider how you might do the opposite. If you find this difficult, try acting as if you were already successfully doing the opposite action. Act as if you were a morning person jumping excitedly out of bed.    

Dr. Thomas Lindquist, Psy.D.

Licensed Clinical Psychologist

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Social Media as an Invitation to Mindfulness

Social media has become fairly integrated into most of our lives. In particular, Facebook seems to be used most commonly. Despite the clear benefits for connection, advocacy and education, social media use presents us with numerous challenges. One notable example is the potential to reinforce and perpetuate unrealistic perceptions, which can have an enormously negative impact on our ability to maintain healthy views of self, others, and the world. Likewise, the endless social comparisons that take place both consciously and unconsciously can create many problems related to low self-esteem and negative self-image. However, social media and Facebook posts may present a creative opportunity for practicing mindfulness. 

One of the primary ways that people engage in social media centers around taking pictures of our experiences to post for others. This can become second nature to many of us, including myself. There are many reasons for wanting to share what we are doing or present ourselves in certain ways, all of which would benefit from some self-reflection. Regardless of why, many people post pictures and comments on a regular basis, even posting multiple times throughout the day. There is little doubt this routine can have an impact on the way we attend to the world.  

What is your first thought when you see something interesting or beautiful? What is your initial reaction when you are with others doing something fun or overlooking a beautiful scene? Many people now reach for their phone and take pictures to post on social media. As a result, we may develop a routine around the way we attend to and collect our experiences through our phones. 

Interestingly, this routine can present an opportunity to introduce mindfulness into your daily life. Specifically, the urge to capture an image or experience for social media can be incorporated as a cue to pay closer attention to the present. Next time you find yourself taking a picture for social media or to share with friends and family try the following practice:  

  1. Notice when you are reaching for your phone to capture an image (your cue).
  2. Before or after you take the picture, pause and bring your awareness to your present experience.  
  3. Notice what thoughts come to mind and where your attention goes. If your mind has started to think of a smart caption to post with your image, challenge yourself to let this go as you can return to it at a later time. 
  4. Challenge yourself to bring your awareness more fully to the present moment. 
  5. Take a mental picture using your alert mind and sit attentively in your experience. 
  6. Notice all of the small details around you as you allow yourself to be more mindful of the present.  
  7. When you do post your picture, recall your experience of taking the picture and reconnect more fully with your memory of that experience. Notice how this feels. 

In whatever way you approach this practice, using the urge to post to social media or take a picture with your phone as a cue to practice mindfulness can be an effective way to shift your awareness to the present and experience a deeper connection in your daily life. Allow yourself to come back into the world and engage more fully in your experience before you rush to capture and share it with others. Pause before you post.

Dr. Thomas Lindquist, Psy.D.

Licensed Clinical Psychologist 

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Accumulating Positive Emotion

People sometimes have the impression that the primary goal of therapy is to eliminate negative emotions or distress. Although there is often a focus on symptom reduction early in therapy, we generally have much broader goals. Likewise, people sometimes navigate daily life in an effort to minimize discomfort or distress. This is fairly reasonable as we are all motivated to avoid pain. Nevertheless, it can lead us down a path of avoidance and hypervigilance or into a pattern of negative thinking and despair if we are not paying attention.  

In contrast to avoiding or eliminating (not possible) negative emotion, we can focus on accumulating positive emotion. In fact, this can be a useful coping skill to learn for building resilience. In reality, unpleasant things, people, and emotions are inevitable and often out of our control. Yet, if we focus some attention and effort on ways of collecting positive emotional experiences, we are likely to be more resilient in the face of adversity.   

The primary challenge to accumulating positive emotion is the all-to-common focus on avoiding negative emotions. It is even possible to overlook and thereby neglect positive emotions when they do occur. Therefore, the first step to accumulating positive emotions is to notice when you are experiences them. Next, allow yourself time to experience and fully acknowledge your positive emotions. You might consider taking a pause, closing your eyes, or speaking softly to yourself using affirmative statements about your emotions. You might imagine taking the positive emotion and related experience and putting it into a backpack to carry with you throughout the day.  

It is all too common to rush past our positive emotions and experiences as we look to the next negative thing to avoid. In this sense, we are unable to accumulate much beyond a fleeting glimpse of positive emotion. A third helpful tip is to monitor your self-talk or automatic thoughts when you attempt to pause long enough to fully experience a positive emotion. Do you find yourself fighting against it or thinking of yourself as not deserving? Do you question the practice and think it is a waste of time or silly? Do you get stuck thinking about the next negative thing that will come your way? This is nice, but . . . ?

Finally, take time to check-in with yourself throughout the day and mentally take note of the positive experiences you have had as well as the positive emotions you have collected. Sometimes it can be something very small. A hug or smile from a loved one. A phone call or text message. Recalling a pleasant memory. Looking at the picture of a close friend. Exchanging a smile with a stranger. Enjoying a few minutes to sit quietly and drink a cup of coffee.

Pause long enough to recall your positive experiences and emotions as you near the end of your day. Imagine you are looking through your backpack and counting each one. Take a brief inventory and connect with a sense of appreciation for taking the time to practice accumulating positive emotions. Having connected more intentionally with your positive emotions you may find yourself more recharged and satisfied. We can’t rid our lives of negative experience or emotions, but we can certainty feel empowered to appreciate the positives ones.

Dr. Thomas Lindquist, Psy.D.

Licensed Clinical Psychologist 

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Embracing the Complexities of Life

The other afternoon I had the thought that I didn’t want to get back on my computer to finish work just in time to rush off and pick up my small children for a long evening of hide-and-seek, amongst other things. All of this takes a lot of energy and I was feeling a bit drained. I also simultaneously felt excited to finish my project for work and I love playing hide-and-seek with my children. I take a deep breath and remind myself that two opposites can exist at the same time. I can feel both tired and excited. I can wish for more time to myself and also love playing with my children. 

This powerful reminder can go a long way – that two opposite truths can exist at the same time or what is referred to as dialectics. This is a key concept for a therapy approach called Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and can be usefully integrated into daily life to foster greater flexibility and openness, while also reducing the pressure to feel only one way or think only one thing. When we embrace the dialectical nature of life we can experience greater freedom through flexibility and acceptance.  

How often do you tell yourself, “I shouldn’t feel this way,” or “I shouldn’t be thinking that,” or question, “That’s not what a good friend/parent/spouse would want to do.” In these moments we are selling ourselves short on the complexity of our human experience. This makes sense given the pressures we all might feel to know or have the right answer, do the right thing, or even feel the right way. Ultimately, this leads us into a rigid seesaw game of all-or-nothing or black-and-white thinking. We can become rigid and close-minded about the way we think or feel forced to choose and maintain one truth, ultimately leading to increased stress and anxiety when faced with a reality that does not meet our expectations.  

Embracing the dialectical nature of life by reminding ourselves that more than one truth can exist at the same time allows for greater freedom and flexibility in our lives. Take a moment to reflect on the last time you felt pulled between two feelings or found yourself stuck in a pattern of black-and-white thinking. Some examples might include thoughts such as “Either I make a perfect dinner or I can’t cook,” “If I make a mistake at work others will think I’m careless,” “Either I’m always on time or I’m unreliable,” or “If I feel frustrated by having no time to myself I’m being selfish,” and “If I let my friend down tonight I’m a bad friend.”  

All of these examples are limiting and oversimplified. Nevertheless, if you find yourself in this pattern you are not alone. Most people find themselves engaged in this pattern of thinking at various times, particularly when overly stressed or pressured by high expectations. It also makes sense that we attempt to zero in on a specific meaning or answer. Might it be possible to be a good cook and still make a fairly bland dinner? It is possible to be an excellent spouse and also want to be alone at times? Can you make a mistake or let a friend down, yet still be a good friend?

Take some time to pause and observe your thoughts and feelings. Notice if you are struggling to allow only one truth into your experience. Notice if you are engaged in binary thinking, such as all-or-nothing or black-and-white patterns. Take a moment to step back and give yourself space for more than one truth to exist. Embracing the dialectical nature of human experience may provide an opportunity for greater freedom and flexibility in your day-to-day life as you allow room for the full range of complex and seemingly contradictory experiences. Human beings are not either-or’s, we are both-and’s.  

Dr. Thomas Lindquist, Psy.D.

Licensed Clinical Psychologist

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Coming to Your Senses

When I studied painting and drawing in college we learned to look very closely at every detail in the objects and scenes we sought to represent. We attended to the full range of colors as well as the light, shadows, and changing reflections. We carefully studied the folds in fabric and the play of light as it shimmered on glass vases. As my classes progressed, I noticed more and more in my daily life. The nearby lake had an impressive array of reflections that transformed throughout the day. The soapy water became beautiful as I washed the dishes. In many ways, I had come to my senses by paying closer attention.

Our senses are the primary way that we connect and engage with our environment. When navigating daily life, our attention allows us to focus our senses and cognitive-perceptual processing on what is necessary to accomplish our goals and stay safe. To be sure, if we lacked this filtering capacity, we would be completely over-stimulated and unable to function. However, this might also set us up for a habitual way of experiencing the world that excludes a wide range of nuances. Add the challenge of spending endless time in your head and much of your environment might be missed completely. What would happen if you shifted your attention to things you never noticed before? How might your day-to-day experience be different?

Daily life can be both busy and mundane. In either case, there is a world of opportunities to observe our environment differently by paying attention to things that we had previously filtered out of our experience or never noticed. Try spending a day using your senses to observe things you might have never noticed. Take note of how this experience impacts your sense of presence, connection, calm and overall experience of pleasure or enjoyment. 

Here are a few examples to help you get started:

Try noticing with your eyes. Look at the many different shades of green on the leaves of the trees. Notice reflections and shadows. Notice textures. Look at the way water moves in the sink or on your windshield. Notice the patterns created on the sides of buildings or freshly mowed lawns.  

Try noticing with your ears. Listen for sounds such as your footsteps, creaks in the floor, the click of the light switch, the rush of flowing water at your faucet or the patter of the rain.  Notice the birds or the sound of the breeze. 

Try noticing with your nose. What does the room smell like at this moment? What smells do you experience outside or when you drive around town? What about your soap, foods, candles, and beverages?

Trying noticing with your mouth. Taste all of the flavors in your food. Try eating new things. Notice the textures and feeling of eating each bite. 

Actively bring your awareness and attention to details you would not typically notice and slow down long enough to take in the endless nuances of your environment. Start a collection as you notice and experience new things throughout your day and make a list of your favorites. As you come to your senses you are likely to feel increasingly present and grounded. You may also notice a stronger sense of connection and pleasure as you take time to experience all that is around you. When you come to your senses and wake up your attention to the things that go unnoticed it is possible to find an entirely new world right before your eyes.

Dr. Thomas Lindquist, Psy.D.

Licensed Clinical Psychologist

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Using Mindfulness to Promote Self-Awareness Around Race

Mindfulness can be used to increase awareness of subtle insults or assaults that dismiss or degrade based on race or other identities, or what are called microaggressions as well as the role of implicit bias or unconscious prejudice.  

Mindfulness is the act of maintaining moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a nurturing and compassionate lens. In addition to awareness, mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them or engaging in a struggle about how we should think or feel. 

Rhonda V. Magee (2019) provides the following prompts to facilitate a mindful reflection on race:  

Think of a time when you were interacting with someone of another race, a time when the fact of racial difference became apparent to you somehow. 

What were some of the thoughts running through your mind? 

What notions of race do you recall being a part of this experience? 

What sensations arise in your body as you recall this interaction? 

What emotions come up for you now? 

Taking a step further, we can use mindfulness to further address internalized bias by asking the following questions.   

What images, moments, snaps, or snapshots are coming up for you when you think of racial differences and racism?

What feelings are arising in you? 

How much of what is coming up seems to echo what you have been taught, or what you have witnessed or inherited from the culture? From your family? From your community? 

Notice whatever feelings are present. Allow the feelings that have arisen simply to be, without judgment, without trying to change them. Get in touch with the ways that you are interconnected with everyone in our society. 

Lastly, connect with a sense of appreciation for taking the time to reflect on these experiences and your efforts to promote a more supportive and inclusive world for others.  

Dr. Thomas Lindquist, Psy.D.

Licensed Clinical Psychologist

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Everyday Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to the present moment. The regular practice of mindfulness over a period of time can have a profound impact on our health and well-being. 

Meditation is often thought of as the best means for practicing mindfulness. However, it can be very useful to think broadly about mindfulness practice, particularly in a busy world. In fact, it is precisely the practice of mindfulness in the midst of daily chaos that makes this practice so profound. As mindfulness becomes more integrated into our way of being in the world, it increasingly allows us to shift our awareness in ways that can help us deal more effectively with stress and anxiety, while simultaneously enhancing our capacity to experience pleasure and satisfaction.  

Everyday mindfulness is one way we can exercise our attention on a regular basis without having to change anything in our routine or set aside time for meditation, although this is still highly recommended. We can practice everyday mindfulness by bringing our attention more fully to the present moment and focusing on our senses in the here-and-now. The following are my favorite examples for practicing everyday mindfulness.

Taking a shower. Bring your attention to the warmth and calming sensations of the water on your skin and the smell of the soap or shampoo.  

Brushing your teeth. Bring your attention to the feeling of the brush as well as the taste of the toothpaste. 

Walking. Bring your attention to the movement of your legs with each step and the pressure of your feet on the ground. If you are outside, notice the feeling of the breeze on your face or the sunshine. Notice anything else that brings your awareness to the present moment, such as the sounds of birds or passing cars.  

Folding laundry or doing dishes. Notice the feeling of the clothing and bring your awareness to the repetition of folding without needing to rush. Notice the feeling of the water on your hands and the repetition of placing dishes with care.

Eating a meal. Bring your attention to each bite of food. Notice the taste and the texture. You may also practice chewing each bite more completely and reflect upon the source of the food you are eating. Notice how your body feels and bring your attention to feeling full at a nature pace.  

In each of these examples, the core practice involves bringing your attention back to the present moment or here-and-now as our mind will naturally wonder. In bringing our attention back to the present, we are exercising our attention and strengthening our ability to connect to the here-and-now.

There are endless possibilities for practicing everyday mindfulness, but it might be helpful to select one or two of these to get started. I feel confident that regular practice of everyday mindfulness can have a positive impact on your well-being and enhance your capacity to be fully present in your life.  

Dr. Thomas Lindquist, Psy.D.

Licensed Clinical Psychologist

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Poetry & Self-Expression

Poetry is many things. I often think of it as an examination of the human condition as we put our experiences into words that attempt to capture something or express something important about life. I have always been drawn to both reading and writing poetry. It provides is an excellent avenue for self-growth, self-care, and self-reflection.  

Below I’ve included one of my favorite poems. You might consider finding one of your favorite poems today or writing a short poem yourself. If you don’t have a favorite poem, considering reading some poetry and finding something that resonates with you. If nothing else, poetry may give you some time to pause and help you tap into your own creativity.  

“Sweet Darkness”

When your eyes are tired
the world is tired also.

When your vision has gone
no part of the world can find you.

Time to go into the dark
where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.

There you can be sure
you are not beyond love.

The dark will be your womb

The night will give you a horizon
further than you can see.

You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in

Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
to learn

anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive

is too small for you.

– David Whyte

Dr. Thomas Lindquist, Psy.D.

Licensed Clinical Psychologist

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Always Arriving: Embracing Each Moment in Times of Transition

Transitions are often times of mixed emotions. Sometimes transitions are by choice, but many times we are not given a choice. People handle transitions and change in all kinds of ways. Depending on the nature of the transition, you may feel anxious and experience self-doubt or feel angry and confused. In some cases, you may feel excited and look to celebrate the transition. In other cases, you may feel slightly numb or disconnected as you approach a transition and find yourself doing all kinds of things to distract yourself from dealing with the change that is about to occur. 

The stress we can experience during a time of transition is often linked to a flood of emotions and a strong underlying current of resistance. Most of us resist transitions and change because they involve moving into unfamiliar territory with unpredictable emotions. Change can be so difficult that many people perpetuate unhealthy behaviors or relationships because doing something differently is experienced (consciously or unconsciously) as more difficult than changing the status quo. One of the more helpful things you can do during a transition is to remain open to your feelings and allow yourself to experience whatever comes up for you.

Mindfulness is extremely beneficial during times of transition. Curiosity in particular can be helpful as it encourages us to stay open to the feelings, thoughts, and sensations that arise in any given moment and allow our understanding to unfold. Fear and uncertainty are difficult, but they can become more manageable as we notice the subtleties of our experience and open ourselves to the complexity that resides beyond the initial layer of anxiety and fear.  

In reality, we are always arriving. It might seem radical at first, but we are always in a state of transition and with each breath we transition to the next moment. If we take a step back and approach our lives as an ongoing experience of emergence, we might be less intimidated by change. Likewise, if we consider all of our emotions as reminders that we are truly alive, we might experience greater freedom and less of a need to fight against fear and uncertainty. With an attitude of acceptance and curiosity we can practice moving forward moment-by-moment.  From this moment to the next.  

Dr. Thomas Lindquist, Psy.D.

Licensed Clinical Psychologist

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