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.

No can do

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Have you ever said the phrase “No can do?” I have and I remember a song from my college days that had those words in the chorus.

I ran across a story from the University of Washington that went viral because of their list of “problematic” words they produced for people in IT. It’s called “IT Inclusive Language Guide: A reference for software and other information technology content.” Here’s a link if you want to peruse the problem words.

I graduated from the U-Dub, as did my brother, mom, dad, aunt and two cousins. I’m proud of my alma mater normally. But today, not so much.

Without getting overly political, I feel censorship is getting out of hand. I don’t think it’s a one-sided issue, but it’s coming at us from all sides.

Changing our language and letting us know what words can and cannot be used I view as a type of censorship.

First, the list divided the offensive words into four distinct areas:

  • Race, Ethnicity, Nationality, Religion, Native/Indigenous Identity
  • Disability and Ableism
  • Ageism
  • Gender and sexual orientation

Grandfather makes the list of problematic words:

A “grandfather” clause, “grandfather” policy or “grandfathering” in IT s a provision in which an old rule continues to apply to some existing situations while a new rule will apply to all future cases. Those exempt from the new rule are said to have grandfather rights, acquired rights, or to have been grandfathered in.

Why it’s problematic:

“Grandfathering” or “grandfather clause” was used as a way to exempt some people from a change because of conditions that existed before the change (e.g., we’ve grandfathered some users on an unlimited data plan.”) “Grandfather clause” originated in the American South in the 1890s as a way to defy the 15th Amendment and prevent black Americans from voting.

They don’t like the phrase “brown bag lunch” either. I always thought it referred to the brown paper bag that I used to put my sandwich and apple in for school lunches. I didn’t know brown bag was referencing skin color. In fact whoever wrote this list, says it does — I’m not buying it. The damn paper bag has a brown color. That’s it.

No can do.

Other offensive words are mantra, cakewalk, ninja, guru, redline, peanut gallery and jerry-rigged. Oh yes, and the expression “no can do.”

Thoughts? Do you think the UW is going too far with their list of problem words? Or, do you think we need to be more sensitive? Do you view changing our language and being told what words we can and cannot use is a form of censorship?

Hall & Oats — I Can’t Go for That (No can do). I was in college when it came out. I hadn’t met my husband. Should this song be banned, along with the phrase “no can do?”

Remembering a friend on her birthday

One of my closest friends from childhood passed away unexpectedly a few years ago. I woke up realizing that today is her birthday. The pain of losing her has lessened over time. But I still miss her.

Rebecca with my baby girl
Rebecca with my baby girl.

I learned via Facebook that my dear friend Rebecca had passed away.

She had a huge personality, was fearless, beautiful and brilliant. I received private messages from her on Facebook constantly, and I noticed I didn’t reply to the last one which I received on a Saturday afternoon—the day she died.

I wonder if she knew she was leaving us? I had no idea that she was ill, but I’ve since learned that she had diabetes and died from DKA (Diabetic ketoacidosis).

The first time I met Rebecca was at my own house. Her older brother Paul had been hanging out with our family for a few weeks that summer before seventh grade. One day, Rebecca decided to come over to our house with him because she wanted to meet me. We went to different elementary schools but for junior high the town’s elementary school students would all attend the same school. I was shy and wouldn’t leave my bedroom to meet her. Finally, my mom coaxed me out to meet Rebecca Coombs and our friendship of a lifetime began.

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The last photo she sent me of herself. “When my baby grand wants a kiss, I oblige. Sir-Mix-Alot this as good as I can get! lol.”

She was the opposite of me in so many ways. She was bold, outgoing and not afraid of anyone or anything. Her long straight black hair hung past her waist and she had a huge smile. Some of my fondest memories were her introducing me to Taco Bell—which I still love today. I got a burrito supreme today in her honor. Also, because of Rebecca, our entire high school won the local radio station KJR’s competition for a free concert—which was the first rock concert I ever attended, “WAR.” I went with her to see Natalie Cole at the Paramount in downtown Seattle, too. She introduced me to so much music and laughter. I remember always laughing with Rebecca and her sister Mary. Mary became as close of a friend to me as Rebecca.

Rebecca was one of a few students from our high school that went to the University of Washington with me. I remember spending the first night in the dorm, with Rebecca in a sleeping bag on my floor.

Me and Rebecca 24 years ago.
Me, Rebecca and my baby girl.

My sophomore year Thanksgiving weekend, I was home and I went with Rebecca and Mary to a concert at a local Grange. I was going to ask a family friend who was there to a Tolo (a dance where the girls ask the boys for the date). We were crossing the street on the Bothell Highway when I panicked at the oncoming lights of cars. I froze in the middle of the street. I grabbed onto Rebecca’s parka hood and she wasn’t able to escape the oncoming pick-up truck either. I shattered my pelvis and Rebecca lost a kidney. We became connected by that one experience forever.

Later on, she married the family friend who I was going to ask to the dance. The marriage didn’t last that long and she did find someone she said was the love of her life, who sadly died a few years ago. Also, her brother Paul died years ago as well as Mary’s husband. Her life had so much tragedy, yet she stayed positive and filled with joy. Near the end, she moved to Hawaii to be close to her son Jake, who she was so proud of. She posted pictures of her new life and her grandchildren whom she called “the grands.”

I will admit she was much better at reaching out and staying connected. Throughout our lives, she’d call me and during the last few months send me private messages on an almost daily basis. One funny story I remember about Rebecca was she called me up and asked who Bill Gates was. She had attended the Microsoft Christmas Party with a friend who worked there and met Bill Gates. She had no clue who he was. It was well known in Seattle that Bill was looking for a wife. He had asked her to Sunday Brunch and she said no. She told me that he was kind of a geek and she was felt awkward and made up an excuse why she couldn’t go.

I miss my dear friend and how full of life she was. God bless you and RIP, Rebecca.

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Rebecca, her husband Andrew and son Jake plus my kids.

How Best to Deal With Your Kid’s Roommate Drama

Now that your child is in college, be prepared. Roommate drama is a thing. How can parents help–or should we?

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University of Utah, Salt Lake City

 

I experienced drama with my first roommate at the University of Washington. I won’t go into detail, but needless to say it wasn’t a pleasant experience. She was from out-of-state, didn’t know a soul, and after a few fun weeks of acting like besties, we were unable to live with each other. I remember her passive aggressive nature, and I never knew what I had done to offend her. But, she wouldn’t speak to me for days on end. Next, she glommed onto my brother and I watched them as an inseparable couple—except she’d flirt with one particular guy behind his back. We ended that roommate situation after two quarters and never spoke to each other again.

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University of Washington, Seattle–my alma mater

My son had a bad situation his freshman year. He and his roommate filled out the computerized roommate pairings at UCSB and they housed together because they had the exact same SAT scores and similar interests. However, the roommate was an hour from his home and girlfriend, had a ton of high school friends with him, and my son just didn’t click or want to get sucked into the continuation of high school life.

 

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UC Santa Barbara

 

This weekend, we went to my daughter’s “Parents and Move-In Weekend.” For the second year, she’s living off-campus in a house with three other girls. She has a large, yet cozy room she’s decorated in her own style. But, inevitably there’s roommate trouble from time to time. Whether it’s someone who hoards dishes under their bed, roommates who never do the dishes, or another who’s boyfriend has moved in for 60 days…things will happen between college kids living in close quarters. They are used to having their own space. There’s bound to be tension as they figure out how to be adults, living with new people.

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My daughter’s living quarters.

I’m glad we were there for her when some roommate drama cropped up. Here’s a few ideas to help with roommate drama:

One

As a parent, stay out of it unless it’s a dangerous situation or may result in trouble with the landlord.

Two

Give support to your child and let them vent to you. Help them figure out what is the best course of action.

Three

Why are they anxious or upset? It may be deeper than what they tell you on the surface.

Four

It’s important for your child to not keep things bottled up, but talk things out. Whether it’s talking in person or texting—just make sure they are able to express themselves.

Five

Advise your child to think things through before they act. Are they willing to live with the outcome of a roommate confrontation? Or, is it better to let it go?

Six

Let your child know that it’s important to stand up for themselves. It’s not okay to be taken advantage of.

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Dusk at Liberty Park, Salt Lake City

 

What roommate problems did you have? How do you help your kids handle roommate drama?

On another note, I read in the Seattle Times that the dorms I lived in are being demolished!

Top 10 Things Kids Need to Know Before Going to College

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The Quad at the UW, cherry blossoms. My alma mater.

 

 

“He tried college a couple times. It just didn’t take,” a dad of one of my son’s friends told me last night at the grocery store.

Next, I got a call from a close friend, whose happy-go-lucky daughter checked herself into a campus hospital, because she felt so overwhelmed and out of control.

Another friend told me their son quit after one semester after too much partying and not enough studying. Yet another mom left on a rescue mission to help a child in need.

What the heck is going on with our kids and college? My own son struggled to find his way his freshman year.  

All of these parents, myself included, believed college was the best and only choice for their kids.imgres-1

Maybe college isn’t for everyone? Maybe we did too much for them? Maybe we didn’t let them fail often or enough?

I’ll talk more about why kids are struggling in college on another day. And if we have an epidemic on our hands.

But, first, I want to share basic things kids need to know before they leave for college. I was often surprised at questions my son would ask me during his first year at college. I’m going to make sure my second child checks off every item on my “top 10 things kids need to know before going to college” list.

  1. Banking skills. Know how to write a check, make a deposit face-to-face with a teller, fill out a deposit slip, and use an ATM card for deposits and withdrawals. Balancing a check-book falls under the banking list.
  2. Laundry. Have your kids do their own laundry so they know how to sort white and colors, hand-wash, hang dry, and fold–and what it feels like to be out of clean clothes. The clean underwear does not appear by magic! imgres-5
  3. Cooking. Teach your child some basic cooking skills like scrambling eggs, making spaghetti, baking a chicken, steaming vegetables, and cooking rice. 
  4. Grocery shopping. Just like clean underwear, the food in the fridge doesn’t appear out of thin air. Teach how to make a list, look for coupons, find sale items, and learn how to read unit pricing on shelves.imgres-6
  5. How to get to and from the grocery store. This may seem obvious, but I’ll never forget the phone call I got from Robert: “Mom. I’m at Costco and how do I get home with cases of water, yogurt, and Top Ramen on my bike?”  Hmmm. Good question.
  6. Budgeting. If your child hasn’t worked at a job and you provide their basic necessities, they lack budgeting skills. My son got his first paycheck working a summer retail job. The check was for $175. He bought his girlfriend a dress for $110 and spent the rest on dinner for the two of them. Very romantic, but not practical when he needed to eat the next week and month.
  7. Theft. At college, thieves are everywhere. My first week of college, I hand-washed some sweaters and hung them out to dry in the bathroom. Within minutes — gone. I had a bike stolen from my sorority storage room — and a locked bike stolen when I used a restroom during a ride around Green Lake. My son’s laptop was stolen when he left it in a study area in his dorm. Make sure they have “find my laptop” activated and never leave anything unattended! Don’t use a chain or cable lock for your bike — use a solid bar type. 
  8. Professors. They set aside office hours and only one or two students bother to stop by per semester. They are thrilled to help and meet students face-to-face. This can help for future referrals, references, internships — and grades. Have your kid meet with each professor at least once, every semester. It can’t hurt!images-2
  9. Cars. Basic things like checking tire pressure, oil and water levels, changing tires and pumping gas. Maybe they won’t have a car right away, but at some point they will and car maintenance is not an instinct. It’s a learned skill.
  10. Learn to say no! College means hanging out with friends, listening to music, parties, dances, rallies, job opportunities, football games, intramural sports, going out to eat, etc. Studying is priority number one. Learning to say no will help your kid stay focused.

What other essential life skills would you add to the list?

imgres-4The first and last photos are from my alma mater the University of Washington. A gorgeous school!