Unintended consequences of mindfulness

The baby quail are growing up. Bird watching, especially the babies, helps me relax.

I have two mindfulness apps on my phone. They are supposed to help me with anxiety and stress. One is called Mindfulness, the other Headspace. I’m not very good about using them. I’ll go through a phase where at the end of the day, I’ll sit down and turn on the app for a five minute mindfulness session. Then the next week, I forget about them.

I saw a headline in the Washington Post that caught my eye:

An unintended consequence of mindfulness

Sometimes it pays to contemplate other people’s feelings — not merely your own by Andrew C. Hafenbrack

Here’s an excerpt:

You’ve had a stressful day at work, so, like millions of other people, you open up Calm or Headspace on your smartphone and do some mindful meditation — concentrating on your bodily sensations, “observing” your thoughts in the moment. Research has shown that this is likely to have benefits: Mindful meditation reduces anxiety, depression and stress; more pragmatically, it can also improve sleep, decision-making, focus and self-control. This helps to explain why so many companies have jumped on the mindfulness bandwagon, incorporating it in corporate wellness programs (and why Calm was valued at $2 billion in 2020). But what if, in the course of your stressful day, you acted like a jerk toward a colleague at a meeting? Could all of that inward focus cause you to downplay the harm you caused that person, letting it float away like a leaf on a stream?

That’s exactly what my research colleagues Matthew LaPalme and Isabelle Solal and I found in a series of eight studies, involving more than 1,400 participants in the United States and Portugal, slated to be published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Across a range of laboratory scenarios and online experiments, we found that asking people to engage in a single session of 8 or 15 minutes of mindfulness meditation — focusing their attention on the physical sensations of breathing — reduced their self-reported levels of guilt (about incidents warranting guilt). It also reduced their willingness to take “prosocial” steps to remedy harms they’d done. The research suggests that people ought to be careful about when they use mindfulness meditation, lest the comfort they derive from it come at the cost of their connections with other human beings.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2022/05/18/mindful-meditation-guilt-amends/

The writer is an assistant professor at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business. In his studies he discovered that Meditation led feelings of guilt to subside, along with the desire to rectify the situation.

So meditation is good at making us feel calm, but it may get rid of guilt when we hurt someone else’s feelings. Sometimes feeling guilty is good, especially if it’s warranted. The emotion of guilt can prompt us to do the right thing like apologize. The inward trend of mindfulness can lessen our empathy to those around us.

I had never heard this perspective before and I found it interesting.

What are your thoughts about mindfulness? Do you find it helpful? Do you think it alleviates feelings of guilt or not?

cardinal in Arizona back yard
Cardinal in my backyard.

About digital tickets

digital ticket in an iphone wallet
A digital ticket in my iphone wallet.

I am new to digital tickets and they stress me out. For example, this ticket is in my iphone wallet for a football game that was last weekend. I don’t know how the ticket got there. I talked about going with a friend who was coming from Palm Springs for the game. But, I decided against it and we’ll join them at a game Thanksgiving weekend instead. So how did this ticket end up in my “wallet?”

My first encounter with digital tickets was to buy five tickets for the football game above. I made a mistake and bought tickets to the ASU vs. Stanford game. When I transferred tickets to my friend (I was buying them for her and her kids and my husband and myself) she texted me back and said I bought the wrong tickets.

I said no worries that the Ticketmaster website said there were refunds. But then I read the small print and the refunds are only for when an event is cancelled. Period. I was able to list the tickets for sale on Ticketmaster. Fortunately, the tickets sold and I got my money back.

I bought tickets for my husband, me and a friend who lives down the street for the NFL Cardinals vs. Panthers game, which is Sunday. My husband has been a huge Sam Darnold fan ever since Sam’s USC days. He was supposed to be the quarterback for the Panthers this weekend, but he shattered his shoulder last weekend.

I bought the tickets a couple months ago but couldn’t access them. That stressed me out because they are expensive and I didn’t know if they existed or not. It’s so nebulous. I like paper tickets. Something solid in my hands that I can touch.

Our friend has pneumonia and we uninvited him to the game. Now we have an extra ticket. Since I successfully sold the ASU vs. Stanford five tickets, I figured I could sell our extra ticket. But if I can’t access the tickets how can I sell them? Today, I was finally able to access the tickets. My hands shook while downloading the Ticketmaster app and listing a ticket for sale. Perhaps it’s because I made a mistake on the first go around is why digital tickets make me anxious.

What are your thoughts about digital tickets? Do you like paper tickets better? Or are you savvy and fine with digital tickets?

State Farm Stadium in Glendale AZ
State Farm Stadium, home to the AZ Cardinals and where I got my COVID shots.

The dog days of summer….

I was curious what I was up to a year ago — during day 139 of the COVID shutdown. I was reading a Julia Cameron book called “It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again” trying to find motivation. I’m feeling lackadaisical just like I did last summer. Maybe it’s the prospect of more COVID mandates, getting back to my routine after being gone for a week — or maybe it’s just August. The dog days of summer.

pug staring out the car window
Waffles in the car with me when my daughter ran into my son’s house to retrieve my sweater.

What are the dog days of summer? I found this on Wikipedia:

The dog days or dog days of summer are the hot, sultry days of summer. They were historically the period following the heliacal rising of the star system Sirius (known colloquially as the “Dog Star”), which Hellenistic astrology connected with heat, drought, sudden thunderstorms, lethargy, fever, mad dogs, and bad luck.

It is hot, humid, we’ve had thunder storms. I’m lethargic. I don’t have a fever, I don’t see any mad dogs and I’m not buying into the bad luck. But otherwise the phrase “dog days of summer” fits.

Okay. About that bad luck. My daughter just called me and said she fell in the dark on her stairs last night trying to get Waffles back in the house. She broke her foot. Now she’s on crutches and trying to get in for an MRI appointment without missing any work. This means she can’t exercise, walk Waffles and will be struggling for weeks to come. I feel like I should be up there to help her. I am thinking this is not good for her mental or physical health.

pug selfies
Selfies with Waffles while he’s intent on watching my daughter outside the car.

Are you feeling the dog days of summer? What are you doing to stay motivated?

One of those days…

This tree is blooming in our courtyard. My husband thought it was dead when we moved in December and was going to have it removed. I insisted he wait until spring or summer to see what happens. I was right.

We had to replace an air conditioner last week. Our handyman who is the best, specializes in AC repair and installation. I asked if I could pay him with Venmo. He said to use Zelle. I’ve only used Zelle a few times before with our handyman in Palm Springs.

I paid him with Zelle six days ago.This morning he called me and said he never got the money. I checked my account online and the money left my account. I took a screen shot to show him. It showed it going to him. He called me back later to tell me that he called his WF bank and there was no trace of the money.

I called my WF bank — actually 800 number — and they saw the money going out, but they don’t know where it went. I filed a claim and they said they’d get my money back into my account within 10 days.

I called our handyman back to update him. I also told him I’d pay him using Venmo. After three times of Venmo declining my payment, I decided to send a little money to my daughter to test it out. Venmo worked going to her. I tried Venmoing the handyman again and it was declined. Maybe it has something to do with the claim I filed.

I gave up. I wrote him a check and addressed an envelope the old fashioned way. I have spent the last three hours dealing with this and I’m very frustrated. That’s why I’m posting some flowers I noticed earlier today. They are a bright spot during my aggravating fight with technology.

What recent technology frustrations have you dealt with?

These blue flowers are lovely and are right next to our driveway.

Hail storm in July!

Hail storm

Friday we left for a two-hour drive to celebrate our anniversary in the cool mountain town of Flagstaff, Ariz. We were looking forward to getting out of the heat, exploring a new area, hiking, dining, and staying at our favorite hotel brand, Little America.

Halfway to Flagstaff, we were entranced with big dark clouds that had long threads of rain hanging from them. Then there was a thunderclap and it started to rain. The rain turned into hail within minutes. It sounded like our car was being hit by golf balls. I was scared out of my mind.

My husband asked me to turn on the hazard flashers. My hands shook so badly I couldn’t do it. I began praying the Hail Mary!

We saw cars pull over on the right shoulder of the two-lane highway. But there was a cliff on that side and the visibility was getting awful. We were in the left lane where there wasn’t room to pull over, just a ditch.

Visibility went to zero. My husband drove at one mile per hour, completely blind to what lie ahead. He said he didn’t want to stop in case someone barreled into us.

The hail turned back into rain and when we made it to Flagstaff it was sunny and close to 100 degrees. What a July.

At the hotel, shaken and exhausted, we inspected the car. It’s dented all over the hood, roof and trunk.

What type of freak weather have you experienced? I thought our snow when we first moved to Scottsdale was odd.

Sticks and stones, rubber and glue…

wild roses in Washington
Wild fragrant roses on my morning hikes in Washington.

Does anyone have a person in their life that when their name pops up on your phone, you want to run? I do. And the name popped up yesterday. I was feeling so good after my vacation and visit with mom, only to fall down the distress hole after interacting with “that” person.

I got very upset. I let it take over my moments of joy and relaxation. It bled into today. And I need to stop letting this person take over my emotions.

This person almost always causes me stress. As much as I want to have a better relationship, it never seems to happen. I think it’s a control issue. This person likes to micromanage and have control and tell me what I should do. I naturally bristle at that. I looked up an article of how to deal with stressors in my life and this is what I discovered from “The Main Causes of Stress” by Elizabeth Scott, M.S. on a website called verywellmind

Personal Relationships:

There are people in all of our lives that cause us stress. It could be a family member, an intimate partner, friend, or co-worker. Toxic people lurk in all parts of our lives and the stress we experience from these relationships can affect physical and mental health.

There are numerous causes of stress in romantic relationships and when couples are constantly under pressure, the relationship could be on the risk of failure. 

Common relationship stressors include:5

  • Being too busy to spend time with each other and share responsibilities
  • Intimacy and sex are become rare due to busyness, health problems, and any number of other reasons
  • There is abuse or control in the relationship 
  • You and your partner are not communicating
  • You and/or partner are consuming too much alcohol and/or using drugs
  • You or your partner are thinking about divorce

The signs of stress related to personal relationships are similar to normal symptoms of general stress and may include physical health and sleep problems, depression, and anxiety.

You may also find yourself avoiding or having conflict with the individual, or becoming easily irritated by their presence.

Sometimes, personal relationship stress can also be related to our relationships with people on social media platforms, such as Facebook.6 For example, social media tends to naturally encourage comparing yourself to others, which can lead to the stress of feeling inadequate. It also makes bullying easier.

This stressful relationship I have is with a relative, but not my husband. So a lot of the bullet points above don’t apply. But I want to know how do I not let this person affect my psyche and mood? Do I stop communicating all together? Or, do I set boundaries? How do I let the words bounce of me? It reminds me of certain childhood rhymes:

“Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

“I’m rubber, you’re glue, whatever you say bounce off me and sticks to you.”

Beautiful Olive the cat
Kitty Olive calms me down.

What suggestions do you have for me to avoid the feelings of conflict and stress interacting with this relative?

How do you handle stress?

Did you know that 85% of Americans view stress as negative and something to be avoided? I know I do. I’m anti stress. And I get stressed out easily.

freestyle swimmer breathing to the side
My daughter racing.

I listened to a webinar called “Helping Children Handle Stress in Sports” by David Benzel of Growing Champions for Life. I’m not through the entire webinar, but I learned a few things I wanted to share.

Benzel explained that there are three main types of stress: developmental, environmental and accidental. Developmental stress refers to the changes we go through during different periods of life like going to school, graduating high school, moving away for college, graduating and getting a job, etc. His talk focused on environmental stress for sports parents. Is the team culture stressful? Do your kids get stressed out to perform? Personally, one of my major stresses is driving on freeways. That environment gets me freaked out.

The third type of stress is accidental as in accidents. I know my daughter spirals out of control when she’s faced with something unexpected like her first day of work on Monday and she discovered someone smashed her car window. Or when she’s gotten in car accidents.

We all handle stress differently and have different symptoms. Personally, I feel stress in my neck and shoulders. When my shoulders are touching my ears chances are I’m feeling stress. I also get an upset stomach, start sweating profusely and shake. Ugh. My body takes over and I feel out of control.

Benzel made the point that our bodies memorize stress after our brains calm down. A healthy reaction to stress is a spike up with the fight or flight response followed by a dip or valley before going back to a normal range. Some people have three or four spikes and don’t get back to normal right away. That’s because they (or me) tend to play the stressful situation over and over in their minds. Stress is a physical reaction going off in our bodies, Benzel said. So, if you “hash and rehash” as my daughter pointed out I have a tendency to do, our body is going to refresh the blasts of cortisol — the stress hormone — over and over.

What I’ve learned so far listening to this webinar is to take a new approach to stress and realize that it is normal and neutral. Benzel said we need to look at our mindset about stress. 15% of Americans view stress as enhancing. They think it adds to their performance and production. Stress can improve health and vitality, learning and growth. In other words, accept there is stress in our lives and look at how it can helps us.

cardboard boat races for physics class
My son and teammate racing their cardboard boat in a high school Physics competition.

What gets you stressed out? And how do you feel stress in your body?