WeConnect is an app to support addiction recovery

https://techcrunch.com/2016/09/13/weconnect-is-an-app-to-support-addiction-recovery/

by

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Keeping close, quantified track of personal progress is absolutely imperative for one group of people: recovering alcoholics and drug addicts. And it’s this often isolated segment of society that the startup behind the WeConnect app is aiming to help.

The team was chosen as today’s wildcard battlefield startup here at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2016, plucked from silicon alley to present their product on stage. They also won theTechCrunch Seattle Meet-Up this summer.

Their app-based support platform includes context-sensitive notifications to encourage timely communication within support groups; a dashboard view that structures the user’s day with activities they view as beneficial to their wellbeing (such as prayer or meditation); and ongoing tracking of their personal progress at attending recovery program meetings — including using geofencing to determine they really attended a particular meeting and even how long they spent there.

It also includes an SOS button a user can press to send a message requesting specific pre-slected contacts get in touch — for moments when they’re feeling really low or in need of immediate support.

The startup behind WeConnect, which describes itself as a social purpose corporation, is using technology to try to combat the sense of isolation that can cause addicts to relapse, says co-founder Daniela Tudor.

Tudor, a former addict herself, came up with the idea for the app during her time in rehab after realizing she wanted a way to stay in contact with the people she met during her recovery program — and who helped her stay on track.

“There’s three components to recovery,” she explains, demoing the app. “One is communication. So adding your connections; the second is clarity — so that’s whatever activity you consider part of your recovery, that keeps you centered and a good connection in relation with yourself. The third party of the recovery, which is probably the most crucial, initially especially, is what your in person support routine is — so that’d include any of these 12-step or CBT cognitive behavioral therapy sessions.”

There’s also a rewards element built in to the app, with users able to earn things like coffee coupons and yoga lessons as they build progress towards their goals. She notes the team intentionally stayed away from loading too much gamification into the app to avoid making the technology itself potentially problematic.

“We give rewards that feedback into your recovery loop, like yoga, fitness classes, coffee coupons. We didn’t want to gamify it too much because we believe that triggers another addiction — which is technology. So we’re giving only activities out or rewards that feed the person’s soul or their connection to their community or their own recovery.”

Unlike other recovery or wellness apps she says WeConnect is private — pointing out there’s no way to search for other users on the app; it’s necessary to have a fellow user’s email and phone number in order to add them as a contact.

“They have to confirm that you want them as part of your network. We’re also HIPAA compliant,” she adds.

As well as helping former addicts to keep on track, the team is also providing data to the treatment providers who are working with them. They’re intending to monetize via this route in time, although their primary mission is a social one, to support as many addicts as possible, says Tudor.

“For the treatment providers the huge value adds that we are is obviously improving outcomes gets them more referrals. The other part is that we provide them valuable data. Insurance companies are starting to cover treatment less and less — they’re looking for actual data-centric tools that can measure the success rate of programs, and how effective the approach,” she says.

“The data’s out there that relapse rates are extremely high… It’s actually an opportunity for them to take that data and improve, and keep also centres and other providers accountable to a healthy treatment program that actually saves lives and reduces relapse,” she adds.

Tudor has been working on the app since 2014, meeting one of her co-founders at a Startup Weekend event.

The closed beta of WeConnect was launched this June — it’s currently being used by in-patient treatment/rehab centers in Arizona, Washington and California as the team gathers more data to be able to prove their app can reduce relapse rates. After that, they intend to make their pitch to insurance companies.

Beyond the initial focus on drug and alcohol addiction Tudor says they see potential to expand the support tech to address a broad spectrum of recovery needs, such as eating disorders and even people on domestic violence rehab programs.

They’ve raised a $525,000 seed round of funding thus far, from strategic investor Steve Moak of Benevolent Ventures — and are now looking to raise a $3 million Series A at a $15 million valuation.

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Judges Q&A

Q: Have you tested this and do you have evidence of success and efficacy?
A: We just started our early adopter program but we’ve had clients that have been using the platform who’ve told us it has definitely improved their accountability and communication. And we also track data on a daily basis to see how much people are on the app, what they’re interacting with on there, and what they’re staying accountable to.

Q: One thing I was wondering is can individuals who use WeConnect find someone else to connect to on the app?
A: When they’re on-boarded they have to add a minimum of two connections… but that’s up to the individual to be empowered and create that accountability community around them.

Our app is very private so you’re not searchable. And we’re also HIPAA compliant so you create your own circle of accountability on there.

Q: I see why you’re going to treatment programs first. It is a smaller market but you have a better chance of having people fully engage with the product… But what use cases could you potentially just use parts of the product for? Is it an all or nothing thing? Or is there a partial way that still has value for a potentially larger market.
A: We’re planning to also go for eating disorders, domestic violence recovery, and create another standalone product for tech recovery. And then there is potentially even larger markets beyond that.

Q: The people who were facing these programs before you had this app, it was all paper and phone calls? Tell me more about that? And from your tests what is the most valuable feature people have said they found in the app?
A: When I walked out of treatment 28 days sober I had to get out of a bad relationship and go to meetings… all of that is extremely overwhelming… This creates a tight accountability and instant support network in your pocket… That’s how we’re solving that problem.

The second question, they’ve said there’s two things: one, just seeing their progress from the past week when they’re getting down on themselves has been rewarding. And then the rewards themselves, they’re motivating them to do more activities than they would do in the first place.

Q: Is it too early to tell or could it dramatically increase results in recovery?
A: Yes, that’s our goal.

Q: What’s the business model thinking?
A: Currently we’re in the early adopter program. That price point is $365 – so $1 a day for a 12 months subscription per patient that we provide to the patient treatment center. That’s just our early adopter program pricing because it’s new. So we’re going to determine a different pricing model after that. But b2b.

Q: So the treatment provider pays not the patient?
A: So it depends. Some treatment centers are footing the cost themselves and some of them are taking that cost and putting it within the aftercare plan that they have for their patient – which also includes outpatient and check ins and a couple of oher features. So it depends. It’s a personal choice for the treatment center. But we bill the treatment center.

Q: Do insurance companies or medicare cover addiction programs?
A: They do. And we were approached today by two insurance companies and they’re really excited about what we’re doing but again the reason we want to be patient first is to get that data to give a really robust presentation to insurance companies.

Q: What’s your specific advantage? The technology is not difficult right so anyone could potentially do the same thing. Is your advantage in your experience?
A: I come from tech but I’m also in recovery. And my business partner also came from that space but having relationships in the recovery community that are really important to have. He does strategic partnerships and we both have experience in this space… Not anybody can just do this.

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How I Live With Addiction Every Day: Amber Valletta

from: MindBodyGreen
http://www.mindbodygreen.com/revitalize/video/how-i-live-with-addiction-every-day-amber-valletta

Supermodel, actress, and fashion icon Amber Valletta opens up for the first time ever about the daily struggle of living with addiction.

amber_valletta

http://www.mindbodygreen.com/revitalize/video/how-i-live-with-addiction-every-day-amber-valletta

Realistic Thinking – Self Help Strategies

From AnxietyBC

http://www.anxietybc.com/self-help-cognitive-behavioural-therapy-cbt

We can all be bogged down by negative thinking from time to time, such as calling ourselves mean names (e.g., “idiot”, “loser”), thinking no one likes us, expecting something, terrible will happen, or believing that we can’t overcome something no matter how hard we try. This is normal. No one thinks positively all of the time, particularly when feeling anxious.

When we are anxious, we tend to see the world as a threatening and dangerous place. This reaction makes sense, because imagining the worst can help you to prepare for real danger, enabling you to protect yourself. For example, if you are home alone and you hear a strange scratching sound at the window, you might think it’s a burglar. If you believe that it’s a burglar, you will become very anxious and prepare yourself to either run out of the house, fight off an attack, or run to the phone and call for help. Although this anxious response is helpful if there actually is a burglar at the window, it is not so helpful if your thought was wrong: for example, it might be a tree branch scratching the window. In this case, your thoughts were wrong because there was no real danger.

The problem with thinking and acting as if there is danger when there is no real danger is that you feel unnecessarily anxious. Therefore, one effective strategy to manage your
anxiety is to replace anxious, negative thinking with realistic thinking.

realistic

Realistic Thinking

Effectively managing negative emotions involves identifying negative thinking and replacing it with realistic and balanced thinking. Because our thoughts have a big impact on the way we feel, changing our unhelpful thoughts to realistic or helpful ones is a key to feeling better. “Realistic thinking” means looking at yourself, others, and the world in a balanced and fair way, without being overly negative or positive. For example:

 

Steps to Realistic Thinking 

  1. Know what you’re thinking or telling yourself. Most of us are not used to paying attention to the way we think, even though we are constantly affected by our thoughts. Paying attention to your thoughts (or self-talk) can help you keep track of the kind of thoughts you typically have.
  2. Once you’re more aware of your thoughts, try to identify the thoughts that make you feel bad, and determine if they’re problematic thoughts that need to be challenged. For example, if you feel sad thinking about your grandmother who’s been battling cancer, this thought doesn’t need to be challenged because it’s absolutely normal to feel sad when thinking about a loved one suffering. But, if you feel sad after a friend cancels your lunch plans and you begin to think there’s obviously something seriously wrong with you and no one likes you, this is problematic because this thought is extreme and not based on reality.
  3. Pay attention to the shift in your emotion, no matter how small. When you notice yourself getting more upset or distressed, ask yourself, “What am I telling myself right now?” or “What is making me feel upset?”
  4. When you’re accustomed to identifying thoughts that lead to negative emotions, start to examine these thoughts to see if they’re unrealistic and unhelpful. One of the first things to do is to see if you’ve fallen into Thinking Traps (e.g., catastrophizing or overestimating danger), which are overly negative ways of seeing things. You can also ask yourself a range of questions to challenge your negative thoughts (see Challenge Negative Thinking), such as “What is the evidence that this thought is true?” and “Am I confusing a possibility with a probability? It may be possible, but is it likely?”
  5. Finally, after challenging a negative thought and evaluating it more objectively, try to come up with an alternative thought that is more balanced and realistic. Doing this can help lower your distress. In addition to coming up with realistic statements, try to come up with some quick and easy-to-remember coping statements (e.g., “This has happened before and I know how to handle it”) and positive self-statements (e.g., “It takes courage to face the things that scare me”).

It can also be particularly helpful to write down your realistic thoughts or helpful coping statements on an index card or piece of paper. Then, keep this coping card with you to help remind you of these statements when you are feeling too distressed to think clearly.

anxiety_BC

Check out the worksheet

http://www.anxietybc.com/sites/default/files/RealisticThinking.pdf

 

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Free Downloadable Therapy Worksheets & CBT Tools

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) has been proven to help mental health problems.

This website (http://www.getselfhelp.co.uk/index.html) offers CBT self-help information, resources and including therapy worksheets on the FREE DOWNLOADS PAGES:  worksheets & handouts
The following Adobe documents are freely available for you to download for therapy purposes – just click on the picture to open the file (in a new tab/window), then save a copy to your computer.  Thumbnail pictures show only top half of portrait format documents.

CBT Self-Help Information Leaflets
Cognitive Models & Formulation Templates

http://www.getselfhelp.co.uk/freedownloads2.htm
http://www.queensu.ca/hcds/cs/resources/documents/ThoughtRecordSheet7.pdf

15 Common Cognitive Distortions

Psych Central – By JOHN M. GROHOL, PSY.D.

http://psychcentral.com/lib/15-common-cognitive-distortions/0002153

What’s a cognitive distortion and why do so many people have them? Cognitive distortions are simply ways that our mind convinces us of something that isn’t really true. These inaccurate thoughts are usually used to reinforce negative thinking or emotions — telling ourselves things that sound rational and accurate, but really only serve to keep us feeling bad about ourselves.

For instance, a person might tell themselves, “I always fail when I try to do something new; I therefore fail at everything I try.” This is an example of “black or white” (or polarized) thinking. The person is only seeing things in absolutes — that if they fail at one thing, they must fail at all things. If they added, “I must be a complete loser and failure” to their thinking, that would also be an example of overgeneralization — taking a failure at one specific task and generalizing it their very self and identity.

Cognitive distortions are at the core of what many cognitive-behavioral and other kinds of therapists try and help a person learn to change in psychotherapy. By learning to correctly identify this kind of “stinkin’ thinkin’,” a person can then answer the negative thinking back, and refute it. By refuting the negative thinking over and over again, it will slowly diminish overtime and be automatically replaced by more rational, balanced thinking.

Cognitive Distortions
Aaron Beck first proposed the theory behind cognitive distortions and David Burns was responsible for popularizing it with common names and examples for the distortions.

1. Filtering.

We take the negative details and magnify them while filtering out all positive aspects of a situation. For instance, a person may pick out a single, unpleasant detail and dwell on it exclusively so that their vision of reality becomes darkened or distorted.

2. Polarized Thinking (or “Black and White” Thinking).

In polarized thinking, things are either “black-or-white.” We have to be perfect or we’re a failure — there is no middle ground. You place people or situations in “either/or” categories, with no shades of gray or allowing for the complexity of most people and situations. If your performance falls short of perfect, you see yourself as a total failure.

3. Overgeneralization.

In this cognitive distortion, we come to a general conclusion based on a single incident or a single piece of evidence. If something bad happens only once, we expect it to happen over and over again. A person may see a single, unpleasant event as part of a never-ending pattern of defeat.

4. Jumping to Conclusions.

Without individuals saying so, we know what they are feeling and why they act the way they do. In particular, we are able to determine how people are feeling toward us.

For example, a person may conclude that someone is reacting negatively toward them but doesn’t actually bother to find out if they are correct. Another example is a person may anticipate that things will turn out badly, and will feel convinced that their prediction is already an established fact.

5. Catastrophizing.

We expect disaster to strike, no matter what. This is also referred to as “magnifying or minimizing.” We hear about a problem and use what if questions (e.g., “What if tragedy strikes?” “What if it happens to me?”).

For example, a person might exaggerate the importance of insignificant events (such as their mistake, or someone else’s achievement). Or they may inappropriately shrink the magnitude of significant events until they appear tiny (for example, a person’s own desirable qualities or someone else’s imperfections).

6. Personalization.

Personalization is a distortion where a person believes that everything others do or say is some kind of direct, personal reaction to the person. We also compare ourselves to others trying to determine who is smarter, better looking, etc.

A person engaging in personalization may also see themselves as the cause of some unhealthy external event that they were not responsible for. For example, “We were late to the dinner party and caused the hostess to overcook the meal. If I had only pushed my husband to leave on time, this wouldn’t have happened.”

7. Control Fallacies.

If we feel externally controlled, we see ourselves as helpless a victim of fate. For example, “I can’t help it if the quality of the work is poor, my boss demanded I work overtime on it.” The fallacy of internal control has us assuming responsibility for the pain and happiness of everyone around us. For example, “Why aren’t you happy? Is it because of something I did?”

8. Fallacy of Fairness.

We feel resentful because we think we know what is fair, but other people won’t agree with us. As our parents tell us when we’re growing up and something doesn’t go our way, “Life isn’t always fair.” People who go through life applying a measuring ruler against every situation judging its “fairness” will often feel badly and negative because of it. Because life isn’t “fair” — things will not always work out in your favor, even when you think they should.

9. Blaming.

We hold other people responsible for our pain, or take the other track and blame ourselves for every problem. For example, “Stop making me feel bad about myself!” Nobody can “make” us feel any particular way — only we have control over our own emotions and emotional reactions.

10. Shoulds.

We have a list of ironclad rules about how others and we should behave. People who break the rules make us angry, and we feel guilty when we violate these rules. A person may often believe they are trying to motivate themselves with shoulds and shouldn’ts, as if they have to be punished before they can do anything.

For example, “I really should exercise. I shouldn’t be so lazy.” Musts and oughts are also offenders. The emotional consequence is guilt. When a person directs should statements toward others, they often feel anger, frustration and resentment.

11. Emotional Reasoning.

We believe that what we feel must be true automatically. If we feel stupid and boring, then we must be stupid and boring. You assume that your unhealthy emotions reflect he way things really are — “I feel it, therefore it must be true.”

12. Fallacy of Change.

We expect that other people will change to suit us if we just pressure or cajole them enough. We need to change people because our hopes for happiness seem to depend entirely on them.

13. Global Labeling.

We generalize one or two qualities into a negative global judgment. These are extreme forms of generalizing, and are also referred to as “labeling” and “mislabeling.” Instead of describing an error in context of a specific situation, a person will attach an unhealthy label to themselves.

For example, they may say, “I’m a loser” in a situation where they failed at a specific task. When someone else’s behavior rubs a person the wrong way, they may attach an unhealthy label to him, such as “He’s a real jerk.” Mislabeling involves describing an event with language that is highly colored and emotionally loaded. For example, instead of saying someone drops her children off at daycare every day, a person who is mislabeling might say that “she abandons her children to strangers.”

14. Always Being Right.

We are continually on trial to prove that our opinions and actions are correct. Being wrong is unthinkable and we will go to any length to demonstrate our rightness. For example, “I don’t care how badly arguing with me makes you feel, I’m going to win this argument no matter what because I’m right.” Being right often is more important than the feelings of others around a person who engages in this cognitive distortion, even loved ones.

15. Heaven’s Reward Fallacy.

We expect our sacrifice and self-denial to pay off, as if someone is keeping score. We feel bitter when the reward doesn’t come.

So now that you know what cognitive distortions are, how do you go about undoing them? Read how in Fixing Cognitive Distortions.

References:

Beck, A. T. (1976). Cognitive therapies and emotional disorders. New York: New American Library.

Burns, D. D. (1980). Feeling good: The new mood therapy. New York: New American Library.

 

Dr. John Grohol is the founder & CEO of Psych Central. He is an author, researcher and expert in mental health online, and has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues — as well as the intersection of technology and human behavior — since 1992. Dr. Grohol sits on the editorial board of the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking and is a founding board member and treasurer of the Society for Participatory Medicine.

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The Disease to Please: Curing the People-Pleasing Syndrome

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Recommended book: The Disease to Please: Curing the People-Pleasing Syndrome  by Harriet B. Braiker, Ph.D.

http://www.harrietbraiker.com/DiseasetoPlease.htm

 

What’s wrong with being a “people pleaser?”

Plenty!

People pleasers are not just nice people who go overboard trying to make everyone happy. Those who suffer from the Disease to Please are people who say “Yes” when they really want to say “No” – but they can’t. They feel the uncontrollable need for the elusive approval of others like an addictive pull. Their debilitating fears of anger and confrontation force them to use “niceness” and “people-pleasing” as self-defense camouflage.

They may appear to the outside world as perennial “nice” people, but they are only concealing their true anger and resentment behind public “happy faces.” And they are hurting themselves and those they would otherwise seek to please.

Now, best-selling author and frequent Oprah guest Dr. Harriet B. Braiker offers help for people-pleasers. The Disease to Please presents clear, positive, practical and easily do-able steps toward recovery from a malady that sounds harmless, but can actually have serious and destructive consequences.

DO YOU HAVE THE DISEASE TO PLEASE?

Like million of others, you may suffer from this incapacitating but surprisingly common problem. For many, the difficulty may start innocently enough with genuine and generous attempts to make others happy. But this seemingly harmless passion to always be “nice,” to put others first and to compulsively please them even at the expense of your own health and happiness rapidly spirals into a serious psychological syndrome with far-reaching physical and emotional consequences.

The Disease to Please explodes the dangerous myth that people-pleasing is just a simple problem of going overboard in seeking to please others. It reveals the underlying approval addition, toxic mindsets that rationalize and perpetuate the problem, and the fear and avoidance of anger, rejection and confrontation that fuel the emotional avoidance pattern.

Begin with a simple but revealing quiz to discover what type of people-pleaser you are and find out what drives your impulse to please others. Then learn how making even small changes to any single portion of the Disease to Please Triangle – involving your thoughts, feelings, and behavior – will cause a dramatic, positive and long-lasting change to the overall syndrome.

Next, you will be ready to embark on a 21-Day Action Plan for Curing the Disease to Please. This plan offers step-by-step, easy-to-follow solutions whose healing power you will experience for yourself one-day-at-a-time as it leads you through the small steps that will produce lasting rewards and recovery.

Inviting, warm, wise and inspiring, this truly therapeutic book will help you deal constructively with normal – though difficult – emotions and relationships, instead of trying to “please” your way out of them. As a recovered people-pleaser, you will finally see that a balanced way of living that takes others into consideration but puts the emphasis first on pleasing yourself and gaining your own approval is the clearest path to health and happiness. As Dr. Braiker points out, sometimes “it’s okay not to be nice!”

Read the book and join the ranks of recovered people-pleasers, and you will finally understand that there is far more to you than how much you do!

Huffington Post – TELL US: How Has Addiction Affected You And Yours?

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/30/war-on-addiction_n_5232934.html?utm_hp_ref=healthy-living&ir=Healthy%20Living

Posted: 04/30/2014 10:15 am EDT Updated: 04/30/2014 10:59 am EDT

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Tanya Little via Getty Images

For the week of May 5-9, HuffPost Live is airing a special week-long series about the social impacts of drug addiction. From the stigma of addiction to the high cost of rehabilitation, the human toll of mandatory sentences and controversial treatment methods, “The War On Addiction” series will discuss the social ramifications of addiction and expose some of the misconceptions of being an addict. The series will bring together lawmakers, rehabilitation specialists, advocates, celebrities, and real people who struggle with addiction.

Since the 1970s, America has been aggressively fighting a War on Drugs and as a result launched an unspoken war on addicts. We’ve treated addicts as criminals and treated addiction with prison sentences. But with prison populations at an all-time high, drug sentencing reform a rare bipartisan issue, and public opinion now in favor of treatment, is this obscure war coming to an end?

Addiction is a debilitating disease that affects 23.5 million Americans. Have you suffered from addiction? Have you witnessed a friend or family member struggle with recovery? We want to hear from you. Share YOUR story here.

Hobbies Are Rich in Psychic Rewards

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/02/jobs/02career.html?_r=0

By EILENE ZIMMERMAN

Published: December 2, 2007
Q. Between work and family, you have little time or energy left for hobbies, like crafts, painting or music. Without them, though, life feels mundane. What can you do about it?

Chris Reed

A. Squeeze them in, even it’s for just a few minutes at a time, because those moments can change your mood and your mind-set.

When people do things that make them feel good, like a hobby, it activates an area of the brain called the nucleus accumbens that controls how we feel about life, said Dr. S. Ausim Azizi, chairman of the department of neurology at Temple University’s School of Medicine in Philadelphia who studies brain activity and cell signaling. Activities you enjoy also stimulate the brain’s septal zone — its “feel good” area — and that makes you feel happy, said Dr. Azizi.

Q. Are hobbies good for you?

A. Yes, and in many ways. Hobbies can enhance your creativity, help you think more clearly and sharpen your focus, said Carol Kauffman, an assistant clinical professor at Harvard Medical School. “When you’re really engaged in a hobby you love, you lose your sense of time and enter what’s called a flow state, and that restores your mind and energy,” she said. In a flow state, you are completely submerged in an experience, requiring a high level of concentration. Research shows strong correlations between flow states and peak performance, said Ms. Kauffman.

Being in that heightened state of concentration raises the levels of neurotransmitters in your brain — chemicals like endorphins, norepinephrine and dopamine — that keep you focused and interested in what you’re doing and that energize you, said Dr. Gabriela Corá, a psychiatrist who is managing partner of the Florida Neuroscience Center and president of Executive Health and Wealth Institute, an executive coaching firm in Miami.

“Making time for enjoyable activities stimulates parts of the brain associated with creative and positive thinking. You become emotionally and intellectually more motivated,” she said.

Hobbies also enhance self-esteem and self-confidence. Feeling that you are solely defined by your job — even if it is going well — can raise your chances of experiencing anxiety, depression and burnout, because you don’t have a perception of yourself outside of work, said Michelle P. Maidenberg, a psychotherapist and business coach in New York, and clinical director of Westchester Group Works, a center for group therapy.

“When people rely only on their role at work to foster self-esteem, that alone cannot typically fulfill their needs,” she said. If you are unhappy with your work performance, you are more inclined to define yourself as inadequate, but if your identity is varied — businesswoman, mother, wife, painter, cook — you can reflect on your success in those other things, she said.

QCan a hobby make you better at your job?

A. Yes, because doing something you enjoy can help you think more creatively and give you confidence. Ms. Kauffman said a hobby could even help prepare you for a difficult meeting, making you more sure of yourself and energetic. “Let’s say you are passionate about opera. Google your favorite opera piece and listen for five or six minutes,” she said. “That positive emotion builds your cognitive and social skills. If you follow your bliss for a little while, it really gives you a surge of energy.”

Challenging and stimulating hobbies may inspire ideas that will help you at work — leading, for example, to a new approach to making presentations, solving problems or meeting a client’s needs. “Any time you take a break from routine, you develop new ways of thinking,” said Gail McMeekin, a psychotherapist and owner of Creative Success, a career coaching company in Boston and author of “The Power of Positive Choices.”

Ms. McMeekin said that by tapping into our creativity through hobbies, we make connections that lead to a flurry of insights and new ideas.

Q. Life is so busy. How do you make time for a hobby?

A. If you start thinking of your hobby as something that helps you professionally as well as personally, you won’t feel so guilty about making time for it.

Schedule an activity on your calendar at home and at work, said Andrea Kay, a career consultant in Cincinnati and author of “Life’s a Bitch and Then You Change Careers.” Ms. Kay’s hobby is making whimsical papier-mâché creatures. She usually dedicates time on the weekend for her art, but also suggested using time early in the morning or in the evening, after children are in bed. “A lot of people just spend their nights in front of the TV; do your hobby instead,” she said. Another option: take a class, like painting or pottery, that forces you to make time for it.

Q. How can you tell if your hobby is something you should pursue professionally?

A. The tipping point is reached when you are far more interested in your hobby than your job and when work feels like a waste of time, Ms. McMeekin said. But take a long look before you leap.

“You have to do some market research first and make sure you could earn a living doing your hobby. You also take the risk that making your hobby your career will take all the fun out of it,” she said.

13 Things Mindful People Do Differently Every Day

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/30/habits-mindful-people_n_5186510.html

by Carolyn Gregoire 

Posted: 04/30/2014 8:23 am EDT Updated: 04/30/2014 8:59 am EDT

It may have started as a trend among Silicon Valley tech companies, but mindfulness seems to be here to stay for all of us.

2014 has been called the “year of mindful living,” and in the past several months, mindfulness has made headlines in seemingly every major print publication and news site. No longer an activity reserved for the new age set, the public is looking to mindfulness as an antidote to stress and burnout, technology addiction and digital distractions, and a sense of time famine and constant busyness.

More and more research is legitimizing the practice, demonstrating that it may be an extremely effective intervention for a wide range of physical and mental health problems.

But beyond the buzz, what does it really mean to be a mindful person — and what do they do differently every day to live more mindfully? Mindfulness, the practice of cultivating a focused awareness on the present moment, is both a daily habit and a lifelong process. It’s most commonly practiced and cultivated through meditation, although being mindful does not necessarily require a meditation practice.

“It’s the awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally,” explained Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) technique, in a video interview. “That sounds pretty simple… but actually when we start paying attention to how much we pay attention, half of the time our minds are all over the place and we have a very hard time sustaining attention.”

Here are 13 things mindful people actually do every day to stay calm, centered and attentive to the present moment.

They take walks.

woman walking in park

“In our culture of overwork, burnout, and exhaustion, in which we’re connected and distracted 24/7 from most things that are truly important in our lives, how do we tap into our creativity, our wisdom, our capacity for wonder, our well-being and our ability to connect with what we really value?” Arianna Huffington asked in a 2013 HuffPost blog post.

Her answer: Solvitur ambulando, which is Greek for “it is solved by walking.” Mindful people know that simply going for a walk can be excellent way to calm the mind, gain new perspective and facilitate greater awareness.

Walking through green spaces may actually put the brain into a meditative state,according to a 2013 UK study. The act of walking in a peaceful outdoor landscape was found to trigger “involuntary attention,” meaning that it holds attention while also allowing for reflection.

They turn daily tasks into mindful moments.

Mindfulness isn’t just something you practice during a 10-minute morning meditation session. It can be incorporated throughout your everyday life by simply paying a little more attention to your daily activities as you’re performing them.

As the meditation app Headspace puts it:

“Mindfulness starts to get really interesting when we can start to integrate it into everyday life. Remember, mindfulness means to be present, in the moment. And if you can do it sitting on a chair, then why not while out shopping, drinking a cup of tea, eating your food, holding the baby, working at the computer or having a chat with a friend? All of these are opportunities to apply mindfulness, to be aware.”

 
 

They create.

artist painting

Mindfulness and creativity go hand-in-hand: Mindfulness practice boosts creative thinking, while engaging, challenging creative work can get you into a flow state of heightened awareness and consciousness.

Many great artists, thinkers, writers and other creative workers — from David Lynch to Mario Batali to Sandra Oh — have said that meditation helps them to access their most creative state of mind. In Catching The Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness and Creativity, Lynch compares ideas to fish: “If you want to catch a little fish, you can stay in the shallow water. But if you want to catch the big fish, you’ve got to go deeper.”

If you want to become more mindful but are struggling with a silent meditation practice, try engaging in your favorite creative practice, whether it’s baking, doodling, or singing in the shower, and see how your thoughts quiet down as you get into a state of flow.

They pay attention to their breathing.

Our breath is a barometer for our overall physical and mental state — and it’s also the foundation of mindfulness. As mindful people know, calming the breath is the key to calming the mind.

Meditation master Thich Nhat Hahn describes the most foundational and most effective mindfulness practice, mindful breathing, in Shambhala Sun:

“So the object of your mindfulness is your breath, and you just focus your attention on it. Breathing in, this is my in-breath. Breathing out, this is my out-breath. When you do that, the mental discourse will stop. You don’t think anymore. You don’t have to make an effort to stop your thinking; you bring your attention to your in-breath and the mental discourse just stops. That is the miracle of the practice. You don’t think of the past anymore. You don’t think of the future. You don’t think of your projects, because you are focusing your attention, your mindfulness, on your breath.”

 
 

They unitask.

women at work

Multitasking is the enemy of focus — many of us spend our days in a state of divided attention and near-constant multitasking, and it keeps us from truly living in the present. Studies have found that when people are interrupted and dividing their attention, it takes them 50 percent longer to accomplish a task and they’re 50 percent more likely to make errors.

“Rather than divide our attention, it is far more effective to take frequent breaks between intervals of sustained, one-pointed attention,” Real Happiness at Work author Sharon Salzberg writes in a Huffington Post blog. “Debunking the myth of multitasking, we become much better at what we do and increase the chance of being able to remember the details of work we have done in the past.”

The mindful way, Salzberg suggests, is to focus on one task completely for a given period of time, and then take a break before continuing or moving on to another task.

They know when NOT to check their phones.

Mindful people have a healthy relationship with their mobile devices — they set (and keep) specific parameters for usage. This might mean making a point never to start or end the day checking email (and maybe even keeping their smartphones in a separate room while they’re sleeping), or choosing to unplug on Saturdays or every time they go on vacation.

But most importantly, they stow their phones away while spending time with their loved ones. One unfortunate byproduct of tech addition and too much screen time is that it keeps us from truly connecting with others — as HopeLab CEO Pat Christen described her own aha moment, “I realized several years ago that I had stopped looking in my children’s eyes. And it was shocking to me.”

Those who mindfully interact with others look up from their screens and into the eyes of whomever they’re interacting with, and in doing so, develop and maintain stronger connections in all their relationships.

They seek out new experiences.

Openness to experience is a byproduct of living mindfully, as those who prioritize presence and peace of mind tend to enjoy taking in and savoring moments of wonder and simple joy. New experiences, in turn, can help us to become more mindful.

“[Adventure] can naturally teach us to be here now. Really, really here,” adventurer Renee Sharp writes in Mindful Magazine. “To awaken to our senses. To embrace both our pleasant and our difficult emotions. To step into the unknown. To find the balance between holding on and letting go. And learn how to smile even when the currents of fear are churning within.”

They get outside.

national park yosemite

Spending time in nature is one of the most powerful ways of giving yourself a mental reboot and reinstating a sense of ease and wonder. Research has found that being outdoors can relieve stress, while also improving energy levelsmemory and attention.

“We need the tonic of wildness,” Thoreau wrote in Walden. “At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.”

They feel what they’re feeling.

Mindfulness isn’t about being happy all the time. It’s about acceptance of the momentwe’re in and feeling whatever we feel without trying to resist or control it.

Excessive preoccupation with happiness can actually be counterproductive, leading to an unhealthy attitude towards negative emotions and experiences. Mindful people don’t try to avoid negative emotions or always look on the bright side — rather, accepting both positive and negative emotions and letting different feelings coexist is a key component of remaining even-keeled and coping with life’s challenges in a mindful way.

Meditation, the quintessential mindfulness practice, has been shown to be a highly effective intervention for managing emotional challenges including anxiety, depression and stress. A 2013 study also found that people with mindful personalities enjoy greater emotional stability and improved sleep quality.

As Mother Teresa put it, “Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.”

They meditate.

meditation

You can be mindful without meditating, but all the research and experts tell us that meditation is the most sure-fire way to become more mindful. A regular practice can help to reduce stress, improve cognitive function, and boost well-being. Research has found that mindfulness meditation can even alter gene expression, lowering the body’s inflammatory response.

Aside from the wealth of research on the physical and mental health benefits of meditation, the testimonies of countless meditators attests to the fact that a consistent practice can help you stay awake and present to your own life.

“It’s almost like a reboot for your brain and your soul,” Padmasree Warrior, CTO of Cisco, told the New York Times in 2012 of making the time to meditate and unplug. “It makes me so much calmer when I’m responding to e-mails later.”

They’re conscious of what they put in their bodies — and their minds.

So often, we shovel food into our mouths without paying any attention to what we’re eating and whether we feel full. Mindful people make a practice of listening to their bodies — and they consciously nourish themselves with healthy foods, prepared and eaten with care. But mindful eating is all about taking your time, paying attention to the tastes and sensations, focus fully on the act of eating and eating-related decisions.

Mindful people also pay attention to their media diets, are equally careful not to feed their minds with “junk food” like excess television, social media, mindless gaming and other psychological empty calories. (Too much time on the Internet has been linked with fewer hours of sleep per night and an increased risk of depression.

They remember not to take themselves so seriously.

laughter

As Arianna Huffington writes in Thrive, “Angels fly because they take themselves lightly.” A critical factor in cultivating a mindful personality is refusing to get wrapped up and carried away by the constant tug of the emotions. If you can remember to laugh and keep an even keep through the ups and downs, then you’ve come a long way already in mastering the art of mindfulness.

Much of our distraction is internal — we ruminate, worry and dwell on our problems. But those who are able to maintain a sense of humor about their own troubles are able to better cope with them. Research from the University of California Berkeley and University of Zurich found that the ability to laugh at oneself is associated with elevated mood, cheerful personality, and a sense of humor.

Laughing also brings us into the present moment in a mindful way. Joyful laughter and meditation even look similar in the brain, according to a new study from Loma Linda University.

They let their minds wander.

daydreaming

While mindfulness is all about focusing on the present moment, mind-wandering also serves an important psychological function, and conscientious people are able to find the happy medium between these two ways of thinking. It’s smart to question whether we should always be living in the moment. The latest research on imagination and creativity shows that if we’re always in the moment, we’re going to miss out on important connections between our own inner mind-wandering thoughts and the outside world.

Engaging in imaginative thinking and fantasizing may even make us more mindful. Research has found that those whose daydreams are most positive and most specific also score high in mindfulness.