Mindfulness Day January 2020

With Pamela Cappetta, Ed. D., Mindfulness Teacher

Join us for a 4 – hour experience of Mindfulness.

This can be a refresher course or an introductory session to Mindfulness, which will include guided mindfulness meditations, educational information and mindful listening. Please arrive early to find your seat and settle in.

You may bring beverages into the group room. Please do not wear any perfumes or fragrances (lotions, hair products, etc.) due to the sensitivity of some of the group members.

When: Saturday, January 18, 2019

Registration: 9:15 AM Class: 9:30 AM – 1:30 PM

Where: 491 McLaws Circle Suite 3A , Williamsburg, VA 3185

Cost: $50 – $100 (you decide) check or cash or PayPal

What to bring: journal, snack

What to wear: comfortable clothing, comfortable shoes

For more information or to register please call 757 – 253 – 5708 or email admin@drpamm.vacoxmail.com

Please send payment to secure your space. Limited to 10 participants.

Mindfulness Day November 2019

With Pamela Cappetta, Ed. D., Mindfulness Teacher

Join us for a 4 – hour experience of Mindfulness.

This can be a refresher course or an introductory session to Mindfulness, which will include guided mindfulness meditations, educational information and mindful listening. Please arrive early to find your seat and settle in.

You may bring beverages into the group room. Please do not wear any perfumes or fragrances (lotions, hair products, etc.) due to the sensitivity of some of the group members.

When: Saturday, November 2, 2019

Registration: 9:15 AM Class: 9:30 AM – 1:30 PM

Where: 491 McLaws Circle Suite 3A , Williamsburg, VA 3185

Cost: $50 – $100 (you decide) check or cash or PayPal

What to bring: journal, snack

What to wear: comfortable clothing, comfortable shoes

For more information or to register please call 757 – 253 – 5708 or email admin@drpamm.vacoxmail.com

Please send payment to secure your space. Limited to 10 participants.

Mindfulness Day September 2019

With Pamela Cappetta, Ed. D., Mindfulness Teacher

Join us for a 4 – hour experience of Mindfulness.

This can be a refresher course or an introductory session to Mindfulness, which will include guided mindfulness meditations, educational information and mindful listening. Please arrive early to find your seat and settle in.

You may bring beverages into the group room. Please do not wear any perfumes or fragrances (lotions, hair products, etc.) due to the sensitivity of some of the group members.

When: Saturday, September 21, 2019

Registration: 9:15 AM Class: 9:30 AM – 1:30 PM

Where: 491 McLaws Circle Suite 3A , Williamsburg, VA 3185

Cost: $50 – $100 (you decide) check or cash or PayPal

What to bring: journal, snack

What to wear: comfortable clothing, comfortable shoes

For more information or to register please call 757 – 253 – 5708 or email admin@drpamm.vacoxmail.com

Please send payment to secure your space. Limited to 10 participants.

Three Ways to Foster Self-Worth

We all want to feel confident in the choices we make. Sometimes, though, an inner voice expressing self doubt can erode our confidence. Where does that self doubt come from? It comes from a lack of self worth.

As Amber Tucker explains so well in her recent article in Mindful Magazine, a poor sense of our self worth probably means that

…we don’t have a secure hold on our own values or judgments. When we don’t grasp our own worth, values, or judgments, others’ negative opinions often have more influence than they should (however inaccurate they are). We might experience low self-confidence, constantly seek out praise, or make choices based on what everyone else does, rather than what we want or believe in.

Thankfully, it’s never too late to discover our true self worth and to become more confident in our choices! I encourage you to watch this excellent short video to understand how you got to this point and the steps you can take to heal and grow:

Are you ready to rediscover your self-worth? Remember to

  1. Surround yourself with supportive people. 
  2. Tune in to your true emotions. 
  3. Find what drives you. 

Best wishes on your exciting new journey!

Mindfully yours,

Dr. Pamm

Create a place for hope to flourish

A suggestion to practice gratitude may sound cliche or even feel annoying when we’re overwhelmed or in a mental or emotional crisis. Things become cliche, though, because so may people have found them to be true or helpful. If the idea of focusing on gratitude rubs us the wrong way, it may be the right time to humble ourselves and take the advice!

As Nicole Bayes-Fleming states so poetically in her recent article in Mindful magazine, “It’s not always easy to notice the good — practicing gratitude can provide a small resting place for hope to flourish in our hectic lives.”

We humans find it so easy to notice the things that aren’t going well, but what if we pause, take a breath, and notice what hasn’t gone wrong? That simple action can reset our course towards a sense of wellbeing. Building on that action can return us to joy.

A recent, violent thunderstorm during my evening drive home had me gripping the steering wheel with white knuckles and fearing that the trees overhead might fall on my car. I was able to relax my grip when I said, “I’m grateful to be inside this safe car with a full tank of gas. I am dry and protected. Those beautiful old trees have stood strong for decades.” My sense of hopefulness and blessing returned!

But almost instantly, my thoughts turned negative: “I was planning to weed the garden and plant the new flowers I bought, but this rain means I can’t. When will I find time to do that?” I took another deep breath and realized, “This bountiful rain means that I won’t need to water the garden in the morning and can enjoy a nice walk to start my day in the sunshine. The planting can wait.”

I enjoyed my free time by cooking a nourishing dinner. I was grateful for that rather dramatic storm for helping me to focus on the small, but truly important things in my life.

Mindfully yours,

Dr. Pamm

Are Your Habits Making You Stressed?

Addicted to Doing

Multitasking might not be the badge of honor we think it is. So says Nicole Bayes-Fleming in her recent article in Mindful magazine. Citing the work of Dan Pontefract and his call for more reflection time in our lives, the author explains that many of us are making ourselves constantly busy with tasks and activities that lead to more tasks and activities, creating a vicious cycle. Continuing this process with no time for pause and reflection can lead to mental and emotional burnout or even heart disease.

“We think that being constantly busy without having the pause, the meandering of thought, the marination in the moment; we think that we’ve just got to be constantly on and that’s a good thing,” Pontefract says. “But it’s not.”

Effect on Our Bodies

  1. Being “on” at all times raises our cortisol levels, putting us in a near-constant state of stress
  2. Chronic stress can put our body at an increased risk of burnout or even heart disease

Returning to Well Being

Pontefract recommends three simple ways to practice mindful reflection

  1. Take time to connect with people. This could mean listening mindfully in a conversation, or smiling at the barista who hands you your morning coffee.
  2. Go for a walk without your phone. Try to engage all of your senses. How do your feet feel on the ground? What do you smell? What do you hear?
  3. Consider your purpose. Question whether you’re doing something that feels meaningful to you. What are your values? What are your goals? 

Balancing Action and Reflection

Balance is key. We don’t have to stop doing everything. Putting our tasks and activities into perspective happens when we leave a bit of space between them. Then, we can be confident that we’re doing what’s necessary for our well being, respecting our values, and reaching our goals.

Mindfully yours,

Dr. Pamm

How to Teach Your Kids about Their Inner Critic

Dr. Hazel Harrison has good advice for you to help your child explore and overcome self-critical thoughts. I pondered her idea of “The Critical Critter” as a fun way for children to handle the difficult subject of negative self-talk, and realized that this method could also work for adults who need a gentle way to address their own negative thinking. I encourage you to read her entire article, but here are the points I find especially helpful:

  1. Exploring self-critical thoughts can often feel like heavy, exhausting work, so using a playful approach can help children bring a certain amount of lightness to balance out the heavy work of noticing unhelpful habits and challenging them or approaching them differently.
  2. Referring to our inner critic as “The Critical Critter” helps children understand when they’re being too hard on themselves and also the crucial lesson that thoughts are not facts. Just because we think we’re rubbish at something doesn’t make it true.
  3. Think of some age-appropriate examples to share with your child about what the Critical Critter does. For example:
    • At age seven, our internal critic bursts into fits of self-incriminating giggles when we trip during a race.
    • Aged 16, it hides under the exam desk and repeatedly whispers “You’re gonna fail at this!”
  4. Teach them ways to shrink the Critical Critter, such as
    • Name their Critter. It will help them to notice when it’s at work and give them power to tame the harsh words.
    • Take the BFF test. Ask your child, “Would you speak like this to your best friend?” If the answer is “no,” it’s time to squash that negative self-talk, encourage them to be their own BFF (Best Friends Forever). Ask them to think about what they would say to a friend in a similar position, and also HOW they would say it.
    • Answer back. When it comes to the Critter, kids need to boss them back with statements like ““That’s enough out of you, Critter — I’m doing my best.”
    • Call for Backup. If your child is trying to master something new, the Critter may pop up. Encourage them to prove the Critter wrong by seeking the advice and support of people who have done it before — people who will say “You can do it.”
    • Create a positive moments practice. To cope with the Critter’s relentless criticism, it’s important that kids find things about themselves that they like. Each day, help your child find time to notice the things — no matter how small they are — that went well because of them. Encouraging a regular gratitude practice is a great way to build resilience, self-compassion, and to keep the Critter quiet!

Mindfully yours,

Dr. Pamm

10 Ways Mindfulness Is Driving Real Change

Barry Boyce, editor of Mindful magazine, has written an excellent article describing ways that mindfulness practice is helping us in these anxious and divisive times. My own experiences and those of my clients affirm his observations that mindfulness is “being used to cultivate a more deeply connected, content, and compassionate world.” Here are the 10 ways that Mr. Boyce observes, with links for further reading, if you’re as intrigued as I am:

  1. In hospitals and doctors’ offices, mindfulness training is making doctors better listeners, lowering their stress, and improving patients’ health with methods that complement traditional medicine.
  2. In classrooms, teachers are using mindfulness methods to foster learning environments with more emotional intelligence—teaching the whole student, mind and body together.
  3. First responders and soldiers are using mindfulness techniques to become more resilient, and trauma sufferers are using it to heal.
  4. In businesses in sector after sector, mindfulness and awareness—and yes, kindness and compassion—are increasing job performance and satisfaction.
  5. Neuroscientists and other researchers are putting mindfulness under the microscope, and learning more each day about what we’re capable of when our minds are more in tune.
  6. Tech innovators find that a little bit of mindfulness gives them the space to look at the bigger picture and try to solve real problems, not just create more distraction.
  7. Lawyers and judges are using mindfulness to avoid the burnout that leads to increased conflict and bad decision-making.
  8. Teen mindfulness programs are helping young people navigate the perils and pitfalls that come with starting out in life, empowering them to find their own sense of purpose.
  9. Marginalized youth are getting chances they might not have had without the opportunity to learn mindfulness skills that synchronize their bodies and minds.
  10. Politicians and public servants at the municipal, state, and federal level—in many different countries—are seeing how mindfulness can bring civility and clarity in the midst of chaotic, challenging times.

Mindfully yours,

Dr. Pamm

Using Mindfulness to Treat Depression and Anxiety

Tools to Recognize and Talk Back to Negative Thoughts

I’ve seen wonderful results for my clients who embrace mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy (MCBT). As psychologist and science journalist Daniel Goleman says, “If MCBT were a drug, some pharmaceutical company would be making billions of dollars.”

Goleman does a masterful job explaining the science behind MCBT in this post’s featured video. In short, it works by

  1. taking the power away from depressing thoughts
  2. shifting our focus to evidence of positive things in our lives
  3. lowering anxiety

Put another way, mindfulness draws attention to our thoughts and feelings. Cognitive therapy helps us to work through them.

Watch what Dr. Goleman has to say about areas of the brain that are affected by MCBT and the results of major studies on its effectiveness:

 

Mindfully yours,

 

Dr. Pamm

Mindfullness Workshop for Teachers

More Effective Teacher-Student Connections in the Classroom

Mindfullness practice can help teachers to engage more effectively with students.

Mindfullness practice can help teachers to engage more effectively with students.

 

“On Monday, WMS Faculty and Staff members attended a Mindfulness workshop led by Dr. Pamela Cappetta. Dr. Pamm is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. She is also a mindfulness practitioner and teacher. In the workshop, tools were given to help teachers and staff practice daily applications of mindfulness in living and teaching. Attendees were also taught how to recognize unproductive patterns, both within themselves and in students and learned how to respond more effectively. All of our faculty and staff members are excited to share and engage their students in the practice of mindfulness.”

– Khalilah Davis, Williamsburg Montessori School

Invite Dr. Pamm to Your Event

Dr. Pamm is a popular speaker and teacher of Mindfulness Practice. Contact her to learn how she can enrich your next event.

 

Compassion meditation training promotes resilience

Good news for caregivers

The Center for Healthy Minds reports that “Research from the University of Wisconsin–Madison suggests that as little as two weeks of compassion meditation training – intentionally cultivating positive wishes to understand and relieve the suffering of others – may reduce the distress a person feels when witnessing another’s suffering. It may also improve their ability and likelihood to respond with compassion.” This means that doctors, law enforcement officers, and first responders who experience high levels of distress or empathic burnout may find relief and resilience through compassion meditation.

What is compassion meditation?

I encourage you to read about the methodology for this controlled study for yourself, but here is a summary of what the two groups were asked to do:

  • The compassion meditation group was asked to visualize people when they were suffering and practice noticing their own personal reactions in a calm and nonjudgmental way. Focusing on a loved one, on themselves, on a stranger, and on someone with whom they had conflict, they also practiced caring for and wishing to help the other person.
  • The control group was asked to do  reappraisal training (re-interpreting personally stressful events to decrease negative emotions).

In other words, the group that did compassion meditation for 2 weeks exercised their “compassion muscle” by gradually increasing the “weight” of the relationship with each person considered, whereas the control group sought only to lessen the effect of personal memories.

Compassion meditation results

The researchers reported that “the people who had practiced compassion meditation and tended to look more directly at suffering in the negative images relative to the neutral photos also showed less activity in the amygdala, insula, and orbitofrontal cortex – areas of the brain that are usually more active when experiencing emotional distress and might lead to a withdrawal response and averted gaze. This finding was not present in the reappraisal group, and the results suggest compassion could be a mechanism through which people may become calmer in the face of suffering.”

That’s very good news indeed, for both helpers and sufferers. It appears that compassion meditation gives more resilience to the person helping the sufferer and the sufferer receives more compassionate care.

As I continue practicing and teaching mindfulness practice, I am inspired by each new benefit that unfolds for me, my patients, and our communities.

Mindfully yours,

 

Dr. Pamm

 

What If Schools Taught Kindness?

Students who show kindness for others are calmer themselves

As a mindfulness practitioner and teacher, I’m very excited to be leading an in-service day for local teachers this month.  We want to develop a kindness curriculum for their students. An article in Mindful summarizes the benefits of mindfulness and kindness – or “kindfulness” as the phrase seems to be taking hold.

Laura Pinger and Lisa Flook took “a 12-week curriculum to six schools in the Midwest. Twice a week for 20 minutes, pre-kindergarten kids were introduced to stories and practices for paying attention, regulating their emotions, and cultivating kindness.”  Their initial findings suggest that this program can improve kids’ grades, cognitive abilities, and relationship skills.

Why teach kindness to kids?

  • school is stressful
  • kindness build connections among students, teachers, and parents
  • it can transform the school environment without formal policy changes or administrative involvement

I encourage you to read the details for yourself, but here’s a quick summary of the concepts taught:

  • Attention. Students learn that what they focus on is a choice.
  • Breath and Body. Students learn to use their breath to cultivate some peace and quiet.
  • Caring. Think about how others are feeling and cultivate kindness.
  • Depending on other people. Students learn to see themselves as helpers and begin to develop gratitude for the kindness of others.
  • Emotions. What do emotions feel like and look like?
  • Forgiveness. Young kids can be particularly hard on themselves—and others—and we teach them that everyone makes mistakes.
  • Gratitude. Role playing to recognize the kind acts that other people do for them teaches thankfulness.

Results show promise

This was a small study with promising results. Teachers’ ratings showed that

  • Students who went through the curriculum showed more empathy and kindness and a greater ability to calm themselves down when they felt upset
  • Students who experienced the curriculum shared more often than those who did not
  • They also earned higher grades at the end of the year in certain areas (notably for social and emotional development)
  • They showed improvement in the ability to think flexibly and delay gratification, skills that have been linked to health and success later in life

I’ll be watching the follow-up studies closely as I work with our local schools to see how we can bring the gifts of mindfulness and kindness to students and their families.

Mindfully yours,

 

Dr. Pamm

Ways to Forgive Ourselves and Others

Forgiveness is an inside job

Have you heard the saying “forgiveness is an inside job”? It’s true, but how do we get free from old resentments and anger that block our release into forgiveness and peace?

 

As Carley Hauck explains in her recent article in Mindful magazine, we may be holding on to past hurts because “our inner narratives or personal stories can easily lead us down a path of reactivity.  We start blaming and shaming, and as a result, we are not able to move forward into compassion, understanding, and forgiveness of ourselves or others. Simply put: when we get stuck in our heads, weaving narratives, even after a simple squabble at home or work, it becomes more difficult to recover.”

 

I encourage you to read her full article, but if you’ve been reading my blog, you probably suspect the solution I  recommend: mindfulness practice. That’s right, being in the present moment and recognizing the feelings in a non-judging way is the first step to forgiveness.  Here’s what’s worked for me and countless other mindfulness practitioners:

 

How to Forgive Yourself

  1. Name and acknowledge your feelings of anger and resentment.
  2. In this new space you create between your emotions and your reactions, you have the freedom to choose how to respond with compassion.
  3. Write a forgiveness letter to yourself. Forgive yourself for the times you didn’t speak up or take good care of yourself or claim what you wanted. Forgive the times you didn’t say “no” when you wanted to or when you didn’t set healthy boundaries. Your mindful attention will reveal what you need to forgive.
  4. Create a loving phrase that will help you whenever you struggle to forgive, such as “I am a loving person and I deeply want the best for others. I forgive myself.”
  5. Feel gratitude for the lessons you learned along the way.
  6. Begin to cultivate compassion toward yourself and others you’ve had difficult relationships with.

 

As Hauck wisely observes, forgiveness has layers that we uncover through mindful attention. It’s also a choice – one that can feel counterintuitive when we’ve been relying on anger for strength. But our true strength and resilience come from letting go and moving on in peace and with compassion for ourselves and others.

 

Mindfully yours,

 

Dr. Pamm

How Mindfulness May Change the Brain in Depressed Patients

I’ve seen the benefits of Mindfulness practice in my own life and in the lives of my clients for many years. Scientific studies continue to affirm the benefits with an increasing frequency of studies and an expanding set of tools.

As Alvin Powell describes in his recent article in Mindful magazine,

The number of randomized controlled trials — the gold standard for clinical study — involving mindfulness has jumped from one in the period from 19951997 to 11 from 20042006, to a whopping 216 from 20132015.

randomized controlled trials

Rising scientific interest in the benefits of mindfulness practice

The tools used to study the effects of mindfulness also continue to increase. For example,  Harvard researchers are using brain scans to explore how 8-weeks of training in present-moment awareness might break the cycle of self-rumination. Findings from this research may add to growing evidence that mindfulness can help sufferers of depression, chronic pain, and anxiety.

Researchers are quick to note that well-designed, well-run studies confirm mindfulness effects similar to other existing treatments, but not necessarily better results than existing treatments. Why, then, is there so much interest in mindfulness? As  Benjamin Shapero, an instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School (HMS) and a psychologist at Massachusetts General Hospital’s (MGH) Depression Clinical and Research Program explains, “Many people don’t respond to the frontline interventions.  Individual cognitive behavioral therapy is helpful for many people; antidepressant medications help many people. But it’s also the case that many people don’t benefit from them as well. There’s a great need for alternative approaches.”

To better understand how mindfulness works in the brain, Shapero and his colleague Gaëlle Desbordes, are using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which not only takes pictures of the brain, as a regular MRI does, but also records brain activity occurring during the scan. They are studying clinically depressed patients, performing functional magnetic resonance imaging scans before and after an eight-week course in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, or MBCT.

During the scans, participants complete two tests, one that encourages them to become more aware of their bodies by focusing on their heartbeats (an exercise related to mindfulness meditation), and the other asking them to reflect on phrases common in the self-chatter of depressed patients, such as “I am such a loser,” or “I can’t go on.” After a series of such comments, the participants are asked to stop ruminating on the phrases and the thoughts they trigger. Researchers will measure how quickly subjects can disengage from negative thoughts, typically a difficult task for the depressed.

I encourage you to read Powell’s complete article and to check back for the results of these ongoing studies.

With so much public interest in Mindfulness and increased activity in the scientific community, I predict that we will soon have a much greater understanding not only of how Mindfulness benefits us, but also how it works, and for which problems it is most effective.

Mindfully yours,

Dr. Pamm

Happiness Begins with Gratitude

New neuroscience reveals 4 rituals that will make you happy

Best-selling author Eric Barker recently shared some insights about happiness on Ladders.com. What makes Barker’s points so interesting is the neuroscience behind them. For example, did you know that gratitude affects your brain at the biological level? Scientists have shown that feelings of gratitude boost the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is the same way that some antidepressant medications work.

Want to know more? I encourage you to read Barker’s entire article, but here’s a summary of what brain research says will make you happy:

  1. Ask “What am I grateful for?” No answers? Doesn’t matter. Just searching helps.
  2. Label those negative emotions. Give them a name and your brain isn’t so bothered by them.
  3. Decide. Go for “good enough” instead of “best decision ever made on Earth.”
  4. Give and get hugs, hugs, hugs. Don’t text — touch.

Once you’re on the gratitude path, it will lead to an upward spiral of happiness, the author explains. To get started, it could be as simple as sending someone a thank you email or text message.

Is gratitude really that powerful? Barker thinks so. He concludes with these observations from UCLA neuroscience researcher Alex Korb:

Everything is interconnected. Gratitude improves sleep. Sleep reduces pain. Reduced pain improves your mood. Improved mood reduces anxiety, which improves focus and planning. Focus and planning help with decision making. Decision making further reduces anxiety and improves enjoyment. Enjoyment gives you more to be grateful for, which keeps that loop of the upward spiral going. Enjoyment also makes it more likely you’ll exercise and be social, which, in turn, will make you happier.

 

Mindfully yours,

 

Dr. Pamm