Posts Tagged ‘Mindful Awareness’

Decrease Negativity

August 31, 2019

The following post is based on a book by a book by psychologist Barbara L. Fredrickson, “Positivity: Discover the Upward Spiral That Will Change Your Life.” The first tactic is to dispute the negative thoughts you are thinking. First of all, learn what you can from the experience such as starting a project earlier so cramming will not be needed at the end. Find whatever negative thoughts are useful, and learn from them. Remaining negative thoughts, such as criticizing yourself and your intelligence, should be disposed of. What is useful use. The remainder should be sent to your mental trash folder. Learning to dispute nonproductive forms of negative thinking is at the heart of cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT. The author writes that you don’t need to have a diagnosable mental illness to benefit from this skill. You can use it to keep inevitable negativity at bay.

Another technique is to break the grip of rumination. Ruminating involves the consistent thoughts that keep running through your mind over and over. The first step is to identify that you are ruminating, and if these ruminations are not offering anything helpful, then stop doing it.

Unfortunately, this is often easier said than done. So you need to do something that literally takes your mind off of your ruminations. Go for a jog. Go for for a swim. Fix your bike. Lift weights at the gym. Meditate or do yoga. Find some activity that totally absorbs you. You could call your friend and ask about his latest trip. Or you could read those articles you’ve been meaning to read for your next project at work.

You can become more mindful. You can meditate or engage in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, or MBSR. Enter “mindfulness” “meditation,” or “MBSR,” into the search block at

You can ask yourself which circumstances usher in the most negativity. Is it your commute? Mealtime? Interactions with certain family members or co-workers? Once you’ve identified the cause ask yourself, Is this negativity necessary? Is it gratuitous? Is it both?

Assess your media diet. A rule of thumb for news broadcasters is “If it bleeds, it leads.” Years ago marketeers discovered that negativity grabs your attention, draws you in, and keeps you watching. Surveys show that the more people watch television, the more violent they judge the world to be. Those who watch a lot of TV are not better informed about the evils of the world. They’re not. They grossly overestimate rates of violence. People who watch less TV are more accurate judges of the degree of risk we all might encounter each day.

Find substitutes for gossip and sarcasm. When you talk about others, highlight their positive qualities and good fortunes, not their weaknesses and mishaps. When poking fun, poke fun lightly. Hurl puns, not barbs, Avoid hidden forms of verbal aggression that cause needless guilt, humiliation, irritation, or self-consciousness to you or conversation partners. Occasions for necessary negativity abound, so there’s little need to manufacture negativity with you daily banter. Doing so needlessly cripples your positivity ratio and crushes your odds of flourishing.

The Wheel of Awareness

May 10, 2014

The Wheel of Awareness can be found in Dr. Dan Siegel’s Pocket Guide to Interpersonal NeuroBiology.  The purpose of this wheel of awareness is to provide a map to guide meditation.  This map was developed by Dr. Siegel to guide meditation independent of any specific religious practice.    At the center of this hub is the awareness of the meditator.  There are four spokes going out of the hub to the rim of the wheel.  One goes out to exteroception, the awareness of external inputs to our five senses..  The second spoke goes out to interoception, the awareness of feelings internal to our bodies.   The third spoke goes out to mental activity.  The fourth spoke goes out to interpersonal relationships.  The purpose of the wheel is to guide awareness  so that important issues are not bypassed or overlooked.
So the meditator can place awareness on  each of the five senses and try to be consciously aware of everything on each sense to the exclusion of everything else.  There is an exercise that can be done with a raisin.  First the raisin is examined visually.  Then the raisin is felt, perhaps with the eyes closed.  Then the raisin is sniffed.  Next the raisin is placed in the mouth.  In addition to tasting the raisin, the texture of the raisin would be felt.  Finally, when the raisin is swallowed, it’s progress down the alimentary canal would be followed.
Now for interoception the focus is on one’s internal bodily feelings.  That is, how does one feel internally?  Any complaints from vital organs, muscles, or nerves?
Mental activity covers a lot of ground.  What thoughts are coming to mind and why.  Here is where one thinks about one’s own thinking.  One question is whether I am thinking when I say or do certain things, or are these automatic responses from my System 1 processes (Kahneman).  Are there biases  in my thinking of which I am unaware?
The fourth spoke is concerned with interpersonal relationships.  How are they going?   If there are problems, they can be pondered for understanding and possible solutions.
Dr. Siegel says that this is about a twenty minute practice, and if time is a constraint, perhaps it can be divided into five minutes per spoke done on consecutive days.
As the hub becomes stronger with individual practice we can imagine that part of the neural correlate of the hub, the middle prefrontal region, also becomes synaptically enhanced as well.   One when becomes advanced meditating with the wheel the person can focus a spoke back on the hub as well.  “Bending the spoke, in the mind’s eye, back towards the hub enables people to experience first hand what direct awareness of awareness itself feels like1.
Information and exercises on the Wheel of Awareness, along with other resources can be found on Dr. Siegel’s website,

© Douglas Griffith and, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Mindful Awareness Practices (MAPS)

April 19, 2014

This post is based largely on entry point 25 (Time-In and Mindful Awareness Practices) of the Pocket Guide to Interpersonal Neurobiology by Daniel J. Siegel. William James, who is regarded by many as the father of modern psychology, proposed more than one hundred years ago that the exercise of returning a wandering attention again and again would be the “education par excellence” for the mind. I remember reading his words when I was a student many years ago thinking “right on.” My mind wandering during my studies was a constant source of frustration. Later in my life I read James’ Varieties of Religious Experience. If memory serves me correctly, eastern religions were not among the varieties of religious experience discussed. Unfortunately there is an anti-eastern/pro-western bias in western education. Had James reviewed these eastern religions, he would have discovered practices in meditation and mindfulness that addressed this very problem.
The UCLA Mindfulness Awareness Research Center (MARC) uses the term mindful awareness practices (MAPS) to the many approaches for developing the skill of being mindfully aware. These strategies focus attention on the present moment. They focus attention on intention and also create awareness of awareness. When the breath is supposed to be the object of attention, the focus of the mind usually wanders and becomes distracted, the intended goal is to redirect attention back to the breath again and again. If the intention of the practice, to focus on the breath, is forgotten, then the exercise will not be performed well. Stabilizing attention requires being aware of awareness, and paying attention to intention. These are the keys to mindful awareness that strengthens the mind itself.
Time-in is a term used to refer to the ways in which we can take time to focus inward, to pay attention to our sensations, images, feelings, and thoughts (SIFT). That is, we SIFT the mind’s inner experience. Doing this each day can promote improvements in emotion regulation, attention, and empathy. Increasing the capacity to be aware of awareness and pay attention to intention strengthens the brain’s circuits for executive functions. These executive functions include the ability to sustain attention, to avoid distractions, to selectively change attention and then focus on the designated target, and to allocate the resources necessary to complete a task successfully. Research done at MARC found as much executive function improvement as is found using stimulant medication in adolescents and adults with attention deficit challenges. Other research at the University of California has found that sustaining mindful awareness can increase telomerase, the enzyme needed to maintain the telomeres at the ends of the chromosomes that sustain the life of the cell.
There is some debate regarding whether being mindful is primarily a way of focusing attention on the present-moment experience or whether it also entails a state of positive regard for self and for others. COAL is an acronym for the notion of being aware that is imbued with kindness. COAL stands for curiosity, openness, acceptance, and love. One kind regard it as either ironic or justified, but being concerned for others also benefits one’s personal health.

© Douglas Griffith and, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.