Cognitive Behavioral Strategies

Lynne S. Gots, Ph.D.
Licensed Psychologist

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2440 M Street, NW
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Washington, DC 20037

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MBSR, Week 8: What Do You Get from Practicing Mindfulness?

By Lynne Gots, posted on June 2nd, 2014.

Our MBSR class wrapped up a few days ago. We spent the last session reflecting on where we were when we started and where we are now after eight weeks of intensive mindfulness training.

It’s very hard to quantify the benefits of a consistent mindfulness practice (although brain imaging studies are attempting to do so). In our group, participants talked of feeling more patient, handling difficult situations more effectively, communicating more clearly, and recognizing physical responses to stress earlier. But these qualitative experiences are hard to measure.

I’ve noticed a subtle improvement in my ability to concentrate, sustain attention, and maintain an even emotional keel. Nothing dramatic, but enough to make me curious about what might develop over time and to keep me plugging away at it. Daily meditation doesn’t bring me bliss or elevate me to a higher plane of consciousness. More often than not, I have to push myself to do it. Sometimes it’s boring. Just sitting and doing nothing frequently makes me wonder if my time would be better spent in a more obviously productive endeavor, like weeding the garden or writing a blog post. But I’ve continued to maintain my streak (272 days and counting) because a growing body of research touts the merits of meditation.

So what has mindfulness done for me?

Well, I’m pretty sure it’s making my manicures last longer. I’m serious. I used to be able to keep my nails polished for a day, maybe two at the most. I’d see a chip and would be unable to resist peeling it off until every nail would be ruined. But since I started meditating, my manicures stay intact for a week.

There’s actually some evidence basis for my observation. Mindfulness is being used as a component of treatments for body-focused repetitive behaviors, such as trichotillomania, nail biting, and skin picking, to develop impulse control. So it might be helping me resist the urge to pick at my nail polish.

My manicures also may be lasting because I’m actually waiting for the polish to harden. I used to feel so antsy while my nails were drying that I’d leave the salon after a few minutes, reach into my purse for my keys, and mar the finish before I even got into my car to drive home. Now I take the opportunity to practice observing my breath while I wait, sometimes for as long as half an hour.

And one other mindfulness lesson may be helping preserve my nails: the acceptance of imperfection. In my premeditation days, I’d see a slight chip and not be able to stand it. But now I can notice the flaw, cover it up with a topcoat to keep it from getting bigger, and let it be.

You may think the grooming improvements I’ve reaped from practicing mindfulness are trivial. After all, a long-lasting manicure hardly qualifies as a major quality-of-life booster. But if you consider the value of learning how to wait patiently, resist impulses, and accept what isn’t perfect, you might agree it’s much more significant than it seems.

Fellow MBSR classmates:  What has practicing mindfulness done for you? I’d love to post your comments.

 

 




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How to Stop Being Your Own Worst Enemy, Revisited: Making Mistakes

By Lynne Gots, posted on February 3rd, 2014.

In my last post—How to Stop Being Your Own Worst Enemy and Start Getting Things Done—I shared my five favorite productivity strategies. I tweeted the link, and it was retweeted, generating nearly five thousand hits to my website that day. I was thrilled—until I realized I’d omitted a word in my Tweet.

“How to Stop Being Your Own Worst Enemy and Start Getting Things” was what I’d actually written, leaving off the “done” and completely changing the meaning. And, apparently, capturing the interest of thousands of people wanting to find out the secret to acquisition.

I was momentarily embarrassed. But I reminded myself of the fleeting nature of Twitter and got over it. Besides, a minor mistake had produced a serendipitous result. Maybe not a revolutionary or profitable invention, like some other legendary blunders (penicillin, the Slinky, Silly Putty, Toll House cookies, the pacemaker, dynamite, and the microwave oven, to name just a few), but an illustration nevertheless of why being overly cautious may stifle creativity.

Now if only I could actually figure out how to get things . . . The post just might go viral.




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Is Perfectionism Ruining Your Relationships?

By Lynne Gots, posted on August 12th, 2013.

I just saw Before Midnight, the third film in Richard Linklater’s triology about Jesse and Celine (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy), who first meet in their twenties on a train, spend a magical day exploring Vienna together (in Before Sunrise) and reunite in Paris in their thirties (in Before Sunset). Now they’re in their early forties, juggling dual careers, raising twin daughters, going on idyllic Greek island vacations, and struggling to maintain a trans-Atlantic relationship with Jesse’s fourteen-year-old son.

We watch their storybook romance crumbling under the weight of real life. She’s jealous of his successful writing career, which gives him ample freedom to travel and (possibly) cheat on her while she’s stuck at home with the kids. She feels fat and old. She resents having put her career on the back burner. He regrets not being a regular presence in his son’s life. He can’t understand why she isn’t happy with their life together. She thinks she doesn’t love him anymore.

If Jesse and Celine can’t live happily ever after, how can anyone expect a non-cinematic relationship to endure?

The film leaves the fate of the couple uncertain. Linklater has said this will be the last of the series, so we’re left to speculate about whether they’ll stay together. If they do, they’ll have to come to terms with reality in all its messiness and learn to accept each other and themselves, flaws and all.

No relationship is perfect, even ones in the movies if they’re being portrayed honestly. But if you’re a perfectionist, your idealized notions about romance may be making it hard for you to connect and commit for the long haul.

I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to reveal how Before Midnight ends (but if you don’t want to know, stop reading here). Jesse and Celine arrive at an uneasy truce. They see each other for what they are rather than how they wish they would be.

Maybe it’s not so romantic, and it’s certainly far from perfect. But it’s truthful and intimate.

To paraphrase the last line of another movie, “This could be the start of a beautiful relationship.” And isn’t that what we’re all looking for?

 

 

 

 

 




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This blog is intended solely for the purpose of entertainment and education. All remarks are meant as general information and should not be taken as personal diagnostic or therapeutic advice. If you choose to comment on a post, please do not include any information that could identify you as a patient or potential patient. Also, please refrain from making any testimonials about me or my practice, as my professional code of ethics does not permit me to publish such statements. Comments that I deem inappropriate for this forum will not be published.

Contact Dr. Gots

202-331-1566

2440 M Street, NW
Suite 710
Washington, DC 20037

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If you don't receive a response to an email from Dr. Gots in 48 hours, please call the office and leave a voicemail message.

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© 2008-2018 Lynne S. Gots, PhD. Photographs by Steven Marks Photography.