How to find meaning in this crazy thing called "LIFE"?

As a clinical psychologist and coach, I highly belief that people need to know what their meaning in life is and how to utilise it, to stay resilient in this crazy thing called life.  Viktor Frankl, an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist as well as a Holocaust survivor, wrote an amazing book called "Man's Search For Meaning" and it describes how to survive and overcome the most horrendous life circumstances. I have found a great little animation that summarises the book in a little video and it illustrates the book's key concepts. I highly recommend watching it. I know it isn't the most joyful topic, but life isn't always about being happy; it is about how you can stay psychologically flexible, no matter what you have to face. And that's what we are doing at Pause In Life - we help people stay flexible and find meaning in their lives. If you want to know more about us or book a session with us, message us! We'd love to help. Have a lovely day!

Do you wanna live in a fairy tale?

This is a great article from National Geographic as it illustrates, if you are living in the present moment, if you are not getting caught up in your head, you then can enjoy all these beautiful and magical things. Like this photographer (Ellie Davies) noticing beautiful natural scenery and then capturing it. And it seems as if the photographer is in an enchanted forest and it is set in a fairy tale.

But what if I told you, magical moments happen all the time and everywhere? However, it is up to you to be able to see them and recognise them. Magical moments are small things. For example: Was it a smile from a stranger? Was it the sunlight that gave everything a golden shimmer? Was it an unusual looking plant? Did you spot one of your favourite animals? Did you smell something really pleasant? Do you actually know, what makes your day magical?

You can create beautiful magical moments in your life. Every day. But you must be willing to see them and engage with the present moment to notice them and let go of judging your surroundings and shoving things into mental boxes. Give it a go, it will be worth it! Who wouldn't wanna live in a fairy tale? ;) :) Birgit

Recharge Your Batteries With Your Pooch

Life is so busy these days. Everything these days is go, go, go! We live in a society that celebrates and praises being busy and stressed. We glorify it. But what is that stress really costing you? What stress tax are you paying? Exhaustion, quick meals and no time to play aren't leaving you fulfilled, that's for sure.

So here are 5 suggestions, how you can recharge your batteries while hanging out with your pooch: 

1.   Detox from technology. Even if it is just not being on your phone or laptop one hour before you go to bed. Maybe just relax with your dog and loved ones. Or try our  "10 Mindful Pats" Meditation.

2.   Take your dog for a walk. Maybe explore new areas. Pay attention to nature: What animals do you see? What is nature up to? Anything in season and blooming? What does it smell like? What do you hear?

3.   Try something new with your dog. Maybe teach it a trick or sign up for a dog workshop (e.g. agility, nose-work, fly-ball, etc.) or go back to an obedience class.

4.   Pay attention to what you and your dog eat. Have you been so busy that filling your body and your dog’s body with nutritious food took a back seat? For instance, the busier I am, the more pasta I eat. And the more likely it is, that my dog Luna just gets high quality kibble. I usually like to feed Luna with raw food, and if time is really poor or we are travelling, I "spice" the kibble up with some sardines, fresh meat or some veggies.

5.   Be kind and compassionate to yourself and don’t get caught up in your monkey mind aka negative mental chatter. Just because the negative mental chatter exists, doesn’t mean it has validity and is accurate. ;)  

If you have any questions or would like to have some guidance in living a healthier more fulfilled life, CONTACT us! That’s what we are here for.

All the best Birgit and her dog Luna. :) 

What do your dog and a meditation exercise have in common?

Stupid question right. However, they both have the potential to be a tool to offer a moment of mental peace and awareness, where you don’t have to be caught up in difficult thoughts and feelings. A moment without judgment. A moment with purpose. A moment of peace. That sounds good, doesn’t it? But the real question is, how can a dog make you feel that way? Bear with me for a moment, while I explain.

The key concept I’m referring to is the concept of mindfulness meditation. I’ve always adored people who have the discipline to meditate regularly. I didn’t, despite knowing it worked. I did courses on it and I had read many studies about it, and yet…still didn’t do it regularly enough.  Every time I contemplated doing it, I thought to myself “Well, let’s be honest, I’m not that organized. I love sleeping in. I’m too lazy for it, despite it’s amazing benefits”.  And believe me, I was ashamed to admit that, as well….I’m a clinical psychologist and coach, and knew what a powerful tool mindfulness can be, and still I didn’t do it. And neither did a lot of my clients. They all told me, “I can see it work, but I’m just not sticking with it. I struggle to do it regularly.”

But what if I told you that there is a way to make this easier? What if I told you, that you could get the benefits of mindfully meditating through engaging with your dog in a certain way? What if I told you, engaging with your dog can have similar effects to doing a 10-minute breathing meditation? Wouldn’t that make the concept of meditating more attractive? To me, it would. 100%.

What do I mean when I talk about mindfulness?

Mindfulness is an ancient Eastern practice, which is very relevant for our lives today. It’s a very simple concept, and means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally. Many people use meditation as a tool to get to a place of awareness, and as a tool to gain resilience and wellbeing in their daily life. People use it as technique to reduce stress, improve their mood, ground themselves to notice what is really important to them, and overall stay resilient in this crazy thing called life. Life isn’t fair, so how do you make it work?

Mindfulness is simply a practical way to notice thoughts, physical sensations, sights, sounds, smells - anything we might not normally notice. The actual skills might be simple, but because it is so different to how our minds normally behave, it takes a lot of practice.

Have you ever been on “automatic pilot” while driving? You get out of the car but you can’t remember much about the trip there?

In the same way, we may not really be “present”, moment-for-moment, for much of our lives: We can often be “miles away” without knowing it.  And this state of mind is a threat to our wellbeing, as we engage in bad habits of thinking that may lead to unhelpful actions and a worsening mood. This is how we become stuck in life. Scientific studies have shown numerous times how beneficial mindfulness is to our mind’s health and overall physical health,  so we know it works.

By becoming more aware of our thoughts, feelings, and body sensations, from moment to moment, we give ourselves the possibility of greater freedom and choice; we do not have to follow the same old “mental ruts” that may have caused problems in the past. Mindfulness is a tool that many may find helpful to stop self- sabotaging themselves.

And your dog is, in my opinion, the best way to practice mindfulness. It’s a crazy idea. True. But it works.

Why? Dog lovers (aka you, as let’s be honest, only dog lovers read my posts) looooove engaging with their dog. If the dog likes being touched and patted, the dog owner treasures these moments of engagement and company, and many people look forward to it after a long day at work. We love patting and engaging with our dogs. So why not combine something you love doing with something that is amazing for your health?

So here is how you use your dog’s company as a way to mindfully meditate. This is a win-win situation: You get to hang out with your dog AND you are meditating and working on your wellbeing. Isn’t that awesome? So here are the guidelines:

10 Mindful Pats

1.    This is a VERY important rule. Never force yourself onto your dog. You are not paying the dog a yoga studio membership, so it has the right to decline your invitation for company.  Although we are aiming for 10 pats, this exercise only lasts as long as your dog enjoys it.

2.    Assume a comfortable position for you and your dog.

3.    Place your hand on a part of your dog’s body where it enjoys being patted

4.    Direct your attention towards the sensation of the touch of your dog’s fur.  Close your eyes. Become curious: What does it feel like? What is the temperature and texture like? How would you describe this sensation in detail?

5.    Start patting the dog. Use slow, gentle and long strokes. Stay curious about each single sensation you are experiencing.

6.    With all of your attention, try to stay in the present moment of touching your dog’s fur, without being critical. For instance, don’t use words associated with good or bad. For example, if your dog is wet from the rain outside, don’t describe it as “this feels yucky”. “Yucky” is a composition of sensation. Which ones? Maybe cold? Maybe sticky? Maybe smelly?

7.    When thoughts (e.g. work, difficult situations, etc.), emotions, physical feelings or external sounds occur, simply accept them.  Just notice them, without getting caught up. It is a big difference in “I notice I’m having a thought about work” or “Oh bother, how am I going to fix that problem at work?” Don’t get caught up in your thoughts. Let them pass like moving clouds in the sky. Even if the same thought keeps coming back, just try to notice it, without needing to follow the urge to think about it in detail. Re-direct your attention to patting your dog.

8.    It is okay and natural for thoughts to arise, and for your attention to follow them. No matter how many times this happens, just keep bringing your attention back to patting your dog. Do this in a compassionate, non-critical way. It is normal that our mind tries to sidetrack us.

9.    Stop after 10 pats and stay kind and compassionate with yourself. IT TAKES PRACTICE. ;)

Now I’m mediating every day, and I love it.  And so does my dog Luna. :) Please share this article if you know a person who could benefit from this.  It is such a simple, yet effective way of doing something good for yourself. And that’s what the mission of Paws In Life Coaching is all about: Strengthening the human-canine bond with evidence-based methods to improve your wellbeing.

We’d love to hear from your experience, Birdy (Birgit) & Luna.


Breaking the stigma of therapy

The stigma of mental health is one of the greatest burdens people can carry, causing a lot of pain in their life.

People often perceive mental health as something very definite and stationary, and forget that mental health is a fluid continuum. Noam Sphancer stated it nicely: “Mental health… is not a destination but a process. It’s about how you drive, not where you are going”.

The stigma against mental health can be sorted into two main areas:
a)    Social Stigma: characterised by prejudicial & discriminating behaviour from society towards individuals with mental illness. For example: “This person can’t be trusted, they’re crazy” or “He/She is broken”.

b)    Perceived stigma or self-stigma: this is the internalising by the person dealing with a mental illness of their perception of the perceived stigma, which can quite often cause feelings of shame, and also be a source of poorer treatment outcomes. For example, “It’s all my fault and if I just try harder I can fix it” or “I can’t tell people as I’ll lose my friends, and my family won’t treat me the same”.

In short, people are either judged by society or they have internalised society’s harsh judgement. And as a consequence, they experience uncomfortable emotions and struggle to reach out, and sometimes can’t see the point in treatment. Because, if society calls you “broken”, it must be true, right? Broken things can’t be repaired, right? That is just false and a load of BS.

According to Beyond Blue, it's estimated that 45 per cent of people in Australia will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime. In any one year, around 1 million Australian adults have depression, and over 2 million have anxiety. That means, nearly everyone has close to a 50% chance of struggling with some form of mental health problems in their lifetime.

My point is simple, mental health struggles can be helped.

There is awesome treatment out there and mental health issues can be helped and overcome in a lot of cases. So please, be mindful when you say something critical about people who are facing a challenge. One day it could be you. Life is not fair and we don’t have control over life all the time. So please be kind, hopeful, encouraging, and don’t spread the stigma of mental health.

The awesome Sapphire Sheedy (check her out on Facebook) did a beautiful drawing to break down the stigma of mental health and seeking therapy. Feel free to share and help.


What to expect from therapy?

I’ve often heard the phrase ‘Oh… I don’t need therapy. I’m not depressed or have mental health problems!’ However, therapy doesn’t have to be just about coping with the large issues in life. Pause In Life would like to help you ignite change and improve your health, well-being and overall satisfaction with life. When we have a toothache, we go and see the dentist. If we have an injury, we see the doctor. So why not get professional help with emotional pain and discomfort?

That’s what I’m here to help you with.

Here’s a wonderful article, that goes into a bit more information about what to expect the first time you have therapy:

If you have any questions about whether we can help you, please don’t hesitate to contact me.