Tiny Habits of Softening & Savoring

What It is by Erich Fried

In the PracticeGround Learning Community we are experimenting with ways that body-based and compassion focused "Tiny Habits" can support wellbeing. One particular set have to do with loosening default ways we detect discrepancy, and then shift, as mindless habit, to resolve discrepancy. For example, as soon as I note how the moment is different than how it could or should be-a task is undone, something is different than expected-attention narrows, sense-making kicks up, action urges or urgency arise.  Without reflection I move to problem solving. This ceaseless habit of detecting discrepancy and feeling the press to resolve discrepancy creates a background white noise of stress and dissatisfaction that undermines wellbeing.

Deliberate practice of tiny habits can loosen the otherwise mindless and draining default mode.

A "Tiny Habit" is a behavior --
    you do at least once a day
    that takes you less than 30 seconds
    that requires little effort

You use an already established anchor, something you already nearly always do as the cue to do the new tiny habit. The format is

After I [anchor], I will [tiny habit].

For example, for me more often than not, a simple pause to orient to direct sensory experience is followed by a sense of ease, spaciousness, or appreciation. Discrepancy is detected, but when I act the quality is different.

Using the tiny habit model helps me build many little moments to deliberately practice meeting the moment with my body and train thinking and discrepancy processing to simply come along for the ride rather than always dominate.

Little rituals at transitions can be especially helpful to create a sense of order, come to the senses, and make space to simply connect with, appreciate and savor what is happening.  

Here are some tiny habit examples of softening and savoring:

  • After I pick up my coffee cup, I will exhale slowly, see the mug and coffee, and inhale the scent.
  • After I first open my email (but before looking at it), I will pause and practice a moment of the compassionate hand exercise for 5 breaths. (example instructions here)
  • After I sit down in my chair at the start of a session/meeting, I will feel the sensation of my center of gravity for 3 breaths.
  • After I review measures with my clients, I will take two breaths and scan for body sensations; I will breath into any tension I notice in my body, allowing it to soften.
  • After I see a call/text come in from a client on my phone, I will take three breaths and bring my attention to sensations in my body, taking an extra moment to connect with any sense of gratitude I might locate in my body.
  • After I see it's time to end a session, I will take one full deep breath and then transition to begin to wrap up.
  • After I detect I'm in a difficult moment, I will take a breath, thinking "soft belly, kind eyes."
  • After I pack my things to end my workday, I will pause, close my eyes, and take 3 breaths.
  • After I sit down in my car (or on the bus, or on my bike), I will take three breaths and bring awareness to touch points in my body (eyelids touching, hands touching, bottom touch the seat, feet touching the floor of the vehicle or pedals).
  • After I put my hand on the doorknob at day's end, I will slow down to listen and see.

Little moments of deliberate practice, little moments of savoring and appreciating. Bit by bit creating alternative patterns to loosen default modes and build wellbeing.

--Kelly Koerner, PhD


Fall Learning Opportunities

Evidence Based Treatment of Eating Disorders: A General Practitioner's Guide

Fridays, September 15th, 22nd, 29th, October 6th, and 13th from 9-10am pacific/12-1pm Eastern/4-5pm GMT

  • Do you want to become more confident treating disordered eating?
  • Have you struggled treating eating disorders (EDs) due to clients' co-occurring medical complications, psychiatric conditions, and ambivalence toward recovery?
  • Do you feel called upon as the front line of treating eating disorders without the needed skills to be as helpful as you would like?

If yes, we have the course for you!

In this practical course with Lucene Wisniewski, PhD, FAED, you will learn the core competencies needed to conduct the first six sessions of a generalist's approach to disordered eating. You will learn elements drawn from evidence-based protocols to help you identify and assess disordered eating, and decide on an appropriate treatment approach and level of care. During the online live meetings, Dr. Wisniewski will model how to apply core concepts and interventions. Participants will be invited to learn many strategies from the inside-out by trying exercises personally. This will allow you to generalize your experiential learning to work with clients.

At the end of this workshop, participants will be able to:

  • Diagnose and assess a client with an eating disorder.
  • Describe the core competencies of a generalist's approach to disordered eating
  • Identify factors involved in determining the appropriate level of care for a client
  • Use initial assessment measures and psychoeducation to create a rationale and treatment plan for changing eating behaviors
  • Describe and apply behavioral strategies for treatment of disordered eating behaviors
  • Select a multidisciplinary treatment team and assess whether treatment is effective

Register today at http://www.practiceground.org/evidence-based-treatment-and-eating-disorders to secure your spot in this exciting offering. Spaces are limited and 15 colleagues have already signed up!

The Compassionate Supervisor Webinar

Wednesday, September 27th from 8-9:30am pacific/11am-12:30pm Eastern/3-4:30pm GMT

Compassion-focused therapy offers an extremely useful method to support the self-reflection needed to do your best clinical work. Join us for an exciting single session webinar with Tobyn Bell to:

  • Learn about compassion-focused therapy (CFT) from the inside out
  • Practice CFT exercises adapted specifically to develop compassion in mental health professionals
  • Experience a powerful self-practice, self-reflection model for therapist development
  • Reduce unhelpful worry, rumination and self-criticism whilst increasing self-reflection, attentional flexibility and approach behavior in your professional life

According to past studies by Paul Gilbert and Kristen Neff, self-compassion is associated with significantly lower levels of depression, anxiety symptoms, self-criticism and shame. Self-compassion has also been shown to support the moderation of negative emotions after receiving ambivalent feedback, increase self-evaluative accuracy when reviewing performance, and to support responsibility-taking for negative events without feeling overwhelmed with emotion. Such findings have important implications for mental health professionals and have inspired adaptations of compassion-focused exercises for therapist self-care and development.

At the end of this webinar, participants will be able to:

  • Describe the reasons therapists would benefit from integrating compassion-focused therapy (CFT) exercises into their own practice.
  • Explain the implications of compassion research for your therapy and self-care.
  • Identify your threats as a therapist including triggers, protective strategies, and unintended consequences.
  • Apply soothing-rhythm breathing to prepare your mind and body for self-compassion work.
  • Utilize mental imagery practices specifically adapted to develop therapist self-compassion. This will involve you developing your own 'internal' compassionate supervisor, an exercise researched by the instructor.
  • Explain the benefit of using the self-practice, self-reflection model to support your well-being, develop therapeutic skills and increase empathy with clients.

Register today at http://www.practiceground.org/the-compassionate-supervisor to secure your spot at this webinar!