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Mindfulness Monday: Put Down Your Phone!

Our smart phones are such a blessing because they're just so You can hail a cab, order a pizza, convert Fahrenheit to Celsius and learn a new language, probably all at the same time. You can connect with anyone, anywhere, at any moment.

What you can't do with your cell phone is feel the cool air on your face, see the natural details in the trees outside your window, or really be fully present. Our phones connect us to so much... but not the here and now. What our phones connect us to is pretty much the opposite of here and now: somewhere else, maybe a couple seconds ago.

Forest is a nifty new app that encourages us to get off of our phones and back into the real world. Sure, at first it may seem counter-intuitive that something designed to keep you off your phone is...well, on your phone. But forest encourages less distraction by challenging you to leave your phone untouched for anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours while the app grows us a little digital tree. The more you stay away from your phone - the more trees you grow. If you touch your phone, your sapling dies! At the end of the day, the hope is that your phone screen is home to a tiny, lush forest.

A lot of the time, when we notice ourselves avoiding being fully present, it's because we're worried that some troubling thoughts or feelings might bubble up if we slow down and check in with ourselves. If you notice you've been a little too "go go go" recently, give us a call and let us help you practice being comfortable in your head and heart, and comfortable with the "now".

In the mean time, I've already grown four trees in my forest today... Think you can beat me??

Flowing Through Life: The Fluid Wisdom of Shanna Willner

Busy Therapy Austin counselor Shanna Wilner took a moment out of her day to share a piece of herself with me, and I'm so thrilled to share her voice of peace with the therapy-verse. Take a minute and check in with one of TA's masters of mindfulness!

What's  one of your FAVORITE moments in the therapeutic process?

Therapy feels to me like the beautiful book, The Universe in a Single Atom.  Every experience, thought, or feeling that’s been had is a contender to show-up in a session.  For me, this concept appears when a client is expressing a deep pain, a bad memory, a daunting fear, and then one of us will say something unintentionally funny and out of nowhere, we start laughing.   It’s the fast unfettered laughter that comes with emotional freedom. 

Shanna before class at a favorite local yoga studio, prepping to get her zen on!

 I love it.  You never know when it will happen, and it happens more often than one might guess.  That shared moment of pain followed by genuine humor makes me feel connected to something vital.   

What's your go to self-care routine?

The big things:  I actively work to get good sleep and I meditate before bed to wind down from the day.  Next, I am deeply committed to positive self-talk; I am respectful to myself, I encourage myself to take it easy and rest, I make jokes but I don’t make fun.  Finally, I am recently focused on a frequent grocery shop so I have good food in my house and I feel more intentional with my finances.  Without any of these pieces, things get ugly, fast. 

 The little things:  I keep almonds and water in my purse.  When I get tense, I look at funny animal pictures on Reddit for 5 minutes (the Aww section on  When I don’t have time for a lot of exercise, I get a little bit here and there by taking a walk around the block, doing a wall-sit, or stretching between clients.   If I’m mopey, I put on Pandora and have a 5 or 10 minute dance party.  Literally.  I close the door and have a solo dance party, and I feel great afterwards.   I think healing and self-care are incremental, so I weave together a lot of small behaviors.  For me, it works.  Doing small things also prevents me from getting overwhelmed. 

If you could be one animal for a day, what would you be?

If I could be one animal for a day, it would be a blue whale.  I picture this enormous creature flowing through a cool, colorful universe with total ease, as if there was no other way to live but in peace.  I don’t know if its true, but that’s how I picture it. 

I also just think they’re cool.  The blue whale is the largest animal ever known to live on the planet, bigger than the biggest dinosaur.   The heartbeat of the blue whale can be detected from two miles away and a human can fit in its arteries.  Blue whales produce very low frequency sounds at 20Hz, meaning that slow and low, that is their tempo.  They freely take up huge areas of space within the vast depth below, while all the air above the surface is also at their access.  They're like oceanic road-trippers, cruising around the deep blue.   They come up to the surface, then take a deep dive.   

This is how I feel on my best days; flowing through my life with my body, big heart, and mind all aligned in peace, so at ease with my existence that I don’t need to question, just be. 


To read more about Shanna, and request an appointment with her, head over to our Bio section, and check out her wonderful knowledge of breathing practices, meditation and compassion within the therapy process.

C'mon get happy! Home-made self-soothe kits

As therapists, we're typically of the mindset that you “can’t go ‘round it, gotta go through it.” We know that addressing your discomfort head-on is the most effective way to change it.

But that doesn’t mean that you don’t deserve a break every once in a while! Those negative thought-loops are exhausting, and you deserve five minutes of peace.  Check out this easy, logical self-soothe kit, and try it out this week.

The goal behind this kit is to flood your brain with positivity so that you run out of room for the negative. If you can find something that sends soothing messages through each of your five senses, your brain will be too busy processing that positive information to fixate on the things that are troubling you. Is this a long-term, cure-all? Nah. Is it an easy, effective break from your stresses? You betcha.


Example Self-Soothe Kit

1.       Sight – I like forest scenes

2.       Sound – I like the sound of rain

3.       Smell – Lavender and Vanilla are my favorite scents

4.       Taste – I love chamomile tea

5.       Touch – I have a stuffed rabbit I’ve been cuddling since forever

With self-soothe kits, you want to do two things. The first is to make your entire list accessible. The second is to put all those things in one place, so that when you’re feeling crummy, they’re easy to find. For instance, with this example kit, I might download a forest screen saver for my laptop, a white noise CD with rain sounds on my iTunes, grab a lavender candle from the drug store, be well stocked on chamomile tea, and have my StuffyBun at the ready. To keep all this stuff on hand, I’ll probably keep it in a shoe box near my desk. That way, when I’m feeling low, I don’t have to task myself with gathering the items.

Good luck, and happy soothing!