Back to All

Dan Harris Helped Me Be Smarter About My Mental Health

March 11, 2019

Michael C. Hernandez, HopeWay Marketing and Social Media

Near the end of 2018, I started seeing a new therapist. She taught me how to use the tools of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and she was also an advocate of meditation. I was not. In theory I thought meditation was a good thing, but I wasn’t about to sit lotus style on the floor, burn candles, wear a robe and chant “oms” until my head hurt.

I don’t do incense and crystals.

But I also don’t do anxiety well either. So, I was at an impasse.

My anxiety was growing like kudzu, and I didn’t see anything that was going to punt that green demon into someone else’s backyard. Finally, I took the advice of my therapist and tried meditation. More specifically, I tried Dan Harris’ app, 10% Happier. For 31 days. In a row. Yes, that’s 31 days of at least two-minutes (ish) a day of mindfulness meditation.

Mindfulness meditation is exercise for your brain. It is secular and simple to start. Anyone can do it. Anyone.

Here’s all you need to do to get started:

  1. Find a quiet place.
  2. Choose a chair, the floor or a cushion to sit on.
  3. Sit with your back relatively straight (you know, like your momma told you to do).
  4. Close your eyes (or don’t) if it’s comfortable for you.
  5. Then focus your attention on your breathing.
  6. When your mind wanders (and it will) return your attention to your breath.

The thing to remember: when your mind wanders to your to-do list, who’s picking up the kids from school or if a one-legged duck can swim in circles, simply bring your focus back to your breathing. Where do you feel it? More in the chest, the belly or the nose? Wherever it is, point your attention there.

Don’t worry or stress when your mind wanders. That just means you are doing it right. No one can completely blank the mind of all thoughts.

Stay with me.

Here’s the cool part.

When all those thoughts come rushing past as you focus on your breath, just give them a soft nod. Acknowledge them but don’t give them any emotional value or stop them to see how they’re doing.

“Hey, there goes the power bill. Hey, there goes my boss yelling about something again. Aww, look our daughter is practicing her cursive with a fork on our bathroom door.”

Think of it this way. All those hectic thoughts rushing around your spinning mind are like cars on the freeway. You can’t help but notice the daredevils flying on by you, but you certainly aren’t going to jump out in front of one and try to grab it are you?

That’s mindfulness meditation.

It gives you the recognition and the pause to notice what’s going on rather than being jerked around by your thoughts.

Dan Harris’ app has plenty of instructor-led meditations that have helped me reduce stress and anxiety in my life.

Is the app a self-help cure all? No. Is mindfulness meditation a cure all? Nope. Cure-alls only exist in fantasy land and infomercials.

But when I combine mindfulness with cognitive behavioral therapy and a good treatment plan, it gives me the ability to stop, challenge and choose how I react to situations in my life, rather than blindly reacting to them without any thought. I become smarter. If you suffer from anxiety like me, then you know how important it is to not be led by a mind that’s spinning out of control.

One of the many things I love about HopeWay is that our program places a high importance on mindfulness and meditation too. And we hope to lift this tool up to more of you in less than a month at McGlohon Theater.

Mark your calendars and grab your tickets for Dan Harris’ presentation on April 3rd at Blumenthal’s McGlohon Theater at Spirit Square in Charlotte. He’s funny, smart, and insightful and he believes in some of the same things that HopeWay does.

Dan’s personal experience with anxiety, panic attacks and depression are the reasons I believed it when he said that meditation could help even a skeptic like me.

Plus, now I have added tools that give me strength to control my mental kudzu.

 

Editor’s note: This blog post is presented for informational purposes only and is not meant to diagnose or treat any illness. If you have any health concern, see a licensed healthcare professional in person.