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Free 5-Day Mindfulness Challenge – Interview with Mindful in May Founder Elise Bialylew

Every year, I share a little about Mindful in May, a month-long online meditation program that can dramatically improve your state of your mind and your life, while also transforming the lives of others living in poverty.

This year, I was grateful to connect with Mindful in May founder Elise Bialylew to learn more about the program; how mindfulness can help with depression, anxiety, and chronic stress; and how you can you can get a free taste of the already dramatically discounted program from April 8th through 12th.

Here’s what Elise had to say…

1. Can you tell us a little about yourself and why you decided to launch Mindful in May?

I was always deeply curious about the human condition and the ingredients that are required to live a thriving life. At medical school, I remember being completely blown away as I held a human brain in my hands and wondered how a one kilogram mass could house a lifetime of memories, thoughts, and desires.

Studying medicine, although at times was so difficult, gave me a deep appreciation for the miracle of the body and the preciousness of life.

As I moved deeper into my career I discovered that while psychiatry helped save people’s lives, it often left the flourishing part of the equation to other professionals. I also realized that this was the part of the journey I was most passionate about. I wanted to support people in thriving, not just surviving.

It was during my own search for greater clarity, meaning, and a way to manage the stress of my everyday life in the wards, that I truly committed to meditation.

When I started learning mindfulness I had no idea how deeply it would transform my life.

One morning, I was sitting in meditation when a phrase appeared in my mind, flashing like a neon light: “Mindful in May.” The phrase grew into an idea to create an online global mindfulness fundraising campaign each year during May, where people could be taught about mindfulness by the world’s best experts and dedicate the month to making a positive difference in the world, by raising funds for global poverty—specifically bringing clean, safe drinking water to those in need.

This was the beginning of a new path that would answer the call of my longing to make a positive difference in a more far-reaching way than prescribing medication and facilitating small group meetings. It was an idea that integrated three of my passions: mindfulness, social impact, and community.

For me, mindfulness meditation has been life changing. It’s taught me so much about how to manage stressful situations and equipped me to manage my emotions more skilfully, both in my personal and professional relationships. Of course it’s still a work in progress—there’s never an end to learning and growing but so far it’s transformed my life and career path for the better.

The fact that we now understand that the way we use our minds can literally change our brains and our genetic expression, is an exciting finding that has re-inspired me along my career path and led me to create Mindful in May.

In the developed world most of us have our material and survival needs met, but it’s our minds that cause so much of our suffering. The World Health Organisation states that depression is now the second leading cause of global burden of disease.

In the developing world it’s something as basic as clean water that creates so much suffering.

Mindful in May addresses both of these global issues by offering people a way to learn how to train their attention, develop their awareness, and become masters rather than slaves of their minds, while helping to raise funds to build clean water wells in the developing world.

2. Who is this program ideally suited for?

The program offers daily content and support including an online interactive community where participants can get their questions answered and connect with other likeminded people from around the world.

Each year complete beginners and more experienced meditators can join the one month program and, no matter their experience, find it hugely valuable. There’s something for everyone in here and most people who do it once, come back again and again each year to deepen their knowledge and practice.

3. How many people have participated since you launched, and what kind of feedback have they shared about their experience?

We’ve had thousands of people from over forty countries participate, and each year we hear of the profound benefits people experience.

Although I was hearing thousands of anecdotes each year about how the program was transforming people’s lives, I wanted science to support this finding. So we completed a pilot research study a few years ago that was published in the Mindfulness Journal which suggested that ten minutes of meditation a day over the one month program, was enough to bring tangible benefits.

Specifically, research revealed that participants experienced greater presence and focus, reduced stress, reduced negative emotions, and more positive emotions and overall described a greater sense of flourishing in life.

As well as these benefits, the research suggested that the more you practice meditation the more mindful you get, and the more mindful you get the more you experience positive emotions.

4. So many of us today struggle with depression, anxiety, and chronic stress. How can mindfulness help us better cope with these challenges and life’s daily struggles?

Each year more than 1,000 studies come out exploring the benefits of mindfulness in different domains. There is very solid research around the benefits of mindfulness in the realm of mental health.

A group of psychologists in England (Mark Williams, John Teasdale and Zindel Segal) conducted a study of patients who had suffered multiple episodes of depression. Incredibly, they found that mindfulness practice was at least as effective in preventing depressive relapse as maintenance antidepressants—without any of the side effects. A later study building on this discovery found that mindfulness practice could nearly halve the risk of depressive relapse.

Another groundbreaking study revealed that regular mindfulness meditation increased amounts of the enzyme Telomerase, which protects DNA from age and stress-related damage, suggesting that meditation can protect our cells from age-related damage that comes with stress.

Although genetics undeniably has an influence on our mental health, the new science offers a more empowering perspective, where we can, to some extent, become sculptors of our own brains by practicing mindfulness.

5. What, have you found, are the other key benefits of practicing mindfulness?

Mindfulness offers us a way to see more clearly and be more aware of what’s happening within us and around us in the world. With this greater self-awareness and present moment attention we become better at:

  • Being aware of our emotions and responding to them rather than reacting
  • Having better access to what we really want in our lives and then taking action to make that happen
  • Recognizing thoughts and letting them go rather than getting stuck in obsessive planning or worrying
  • Managing our stress
  • Being in relationships with others with less conflict
  • Communicating more effectively as we are more aware of why we are feeling what we are feeling
  • Staying focussed at work and being less prone to multitasking
  • Falling asleep at night as we have a tool to settle the mind
  • Making decisions that are aligned with what we truly value

6. What do you think are the biggest obstacles to starting and maintaining a meditation practice, and how can Mindful in May help people do just that?

I’ve found over the years of teaching that there are many misconceptions about what meditation is, and this means people come to the practice with expectations that set them up for failure. One of the biggest misconceptions is that meditation is about stopping your thoughts.

Meditation isn’t about stopping your thoughts but rather recognizing and becoming more aware of thoughts so that you are less caught in the impact they can have on you. Although as you practice for longer periods the mind certainly does settle, you can never stop the mind from thinking.

Just like the heart beats, the lungs breathe, and the eyes see, the mind thinks. So when you sit to meditate and notice the constant stream of thoughts, you realize that this is part of meditation, and so it becomes less of a challenge as you stop battling with your own mind.

There are other challenges to meditating whether that’s boredom, sleepiness, or restlessness, and these are all predictable obstacles that have been described for thousands of years in the ancient texts. Thankfully, meditators from centuries before us have faced these challenges and have come up with ways of working with these challenges, which support you to go deeper into the practice and experience the benefits that lie beyond these obstacles.

I created Mindful in May with all of these obstacles in mind, and each week I offer direct ways of working through these challenges. I think this really helps people finally get beyond barriers they’ve previously experienced and they start to experience the deep benefits of the practice.

One of the other big challenges for all of us is finding the time, prioritizing meditation, and making it a habit. We cover this challenge as well, and I feature guests who are experts in habit formation and behavior change. So it’s not just a meditation course that people are getting, it’s really an integrative program that helps people learn the tool of meditation but also learn how to create lasting positive change in their lives.

7. As part of the program, you feature interviews with more than a dozen mindfulness experts. Looking at the lineup, I’m sure these were all powerful, inspiring conversations! But can you share a couple key insights from these interviews—ideas that you think have the potential to change participants’ lives?

Critically acclaimed author and Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, Dan Siegel, offers fascinating new research on the benefits of mindfulness and its ability to slow the ageing process, reduce inflammation, and lower both blood pressure and cholesterol.

He delves into interesting discoveries around mind wandering, explaining that, …”it’s not that unhappiness leads to mind wandering, but, it appears … not being present is making you unhappy. Even if your mind is wandering toward fun things—I’m going to go on a trip to Hawaii or I’m going to go to a fun ski trip, or whatever—that actually isn’t the issue. Somehow being in the present moment and literally having presence is associated with happiness and well-being.”

Mark Epstein, an NYC Bestselling author and psychiatrist, discusses what anger, restlessness, and worry can teach us about ourselves, and why “letting go” does not necessarily mean letting go of thoughts and emotions. He says, “Letting go does not mean releasing the thing that’s bothering you, trying to get rid of it only makes it stronger. Letting go has more to do with patience than it does with release.”

8. I know you offer a free five-day mindfulness challenge to offer a taste of Mindful in May. What does that challenge entail, and how can interested parties sign up?

I know how powerful the Mindful in May program is, but I also know that there are so many offerings online it can be hard for people to discern whether programs are really going to deliver what they promise. So, that’s why I offer a free program, to give people a chance to get a taste and discover the incredibly valuable learning and tools inside.

The FREE 5 Days To Mindfulness program runs from April 8th-12th, and when you register you get:

  • Daily emails for five days with mindfulness teaching and guided meditations
  • Access to a fascinating video teaching with world leading Stanford mindfulness expert and professor of psychology Kelly McGonical—you’ll learn practical tools that will transform your stress and life for the better!
  • Guided meditations that will help you find greater focus and calm (and take less than ten minutes!)
  • Support from a like minded online community where you’ll be held accountable to stay on track during your five-day training.
  • Experience the power of meditating in community with people around the world through a LIVE online guided meditation with Elise to help you access greater calm and relaxation in the busyness of your life

9. If people enjoy the free challenge, how can they get involved in the month-long campaign?

To register for the one month Mindful in May program they need to simply register here.

When they register they’ll get:

  • Guided meditations from the world’s best meditation teachers including meditations for relaxation, improved focus, better sleep, greater emotional balance, managing difficult emotions like anxiety and anger and more.
  • Sixteen+ exclusive video interviews with mindfulness experts, and neuroscientists including Daniel Siegel, James Baraz, Mark Epstein, and many more…
  • Daily emails to make meditation a habit
  • Access to the online community to help them stay accountable, connected and regularly meditating

This world-class meditation program is normally $300, but for the month of May, we drop the price to just $49. This gives you a chance to donate some of the difference to the cause. So it’s a win, win—a clear mind for you and clean water for others.

You can make an optional donation and or create a fundraising page and get sponsored to meditate for ten minutes a day throughout May.

Every $50 you raise will transform the life of one person through giving them the gift of clean safe drinking water.

In case you missed the many links throughout this post, you can join the free 5-day challenge here, or get signed up for the full month-long Mindful in May program here. I hope you find the program helpful, friends!

About Lori Deschene

Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha. She’s also the author of Tiny Buddha’s Gratitude Journal and other books and co-founder of Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. An avid film lover, she recently finished writing her first feature screenplay and is fundraising to get it made now. To get daily wisdom in your inbox, join the Tiny Buddha list here.

Get in the conversation! Click here to leave a comment on the site.

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The Real Reason You Feel Alone – Motivational Video

If you think you feel lonely because you ARE alone, you are wrong. You feel lonely because of the relationship you have with yourself, and how you frame the world around you.

The Real Reason You Feel Alone – Motivational Video

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The Real Reason You Feel Alone – Motivational Video – Lyrics, Music, Speech: Copyright: Fearless Motivation
Speakers: Chris Ross

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Transcript – The Real Reason You Feel Alone – Motivational Video | Fearless Motivation

You don’t feel alone because you are alone. You feel alone because you aren’t at peace with yourself.

You feel alone because you don’t love yourself.

You feel alone because you’ve been conditioned to believe that you need another person to complete you. You don’t.

You feel alone because you’re comparing yourself to others.
 You don’t have to.

You feel alone because you have yet to realize there is a greater purpose for your life.
You feel alone because all you’re thinking about is YOURSELF.

Think about it: If your mission was to do good for others, to serve others, to love others and give your best to everyone you encounter, there is no loneliness there.

Loneliness can only exist when your thoughts are 100% focused on yourself and what YOU DON’T HAVE.

You feel alone because you’re not living the life you want to live. You’re not living as YOU.
 
When you live a truly authentic life… the right people will show up.

If you are following the life you want to live, digging deep into your purpose… you will be so lit up with passion, there won’t be room for empty feelings of darkness.

Dr Wayne Dyer, once said:
 “You can not be lonely if you like the person you are alone with”

Spend more time alone and learn to love it.
 
Learn to love it because you love the person you are becoming.
 Because every day you are focused on your purpose. Your mission in life.

Every day you are chasing your dreams and living with passion in your soul.

Practicing daily GRATITUDE for what you do have… the people you do have in your life… and the PERSON YOU ARE ALREADY… will replace those feelings of loneliness with feelings of fullness.

So, if you feel alone… know that it is not other people you need. It is you who needs to grow.

Know it and commit to the work that is required to get to that place.

Commit to the reading, the daily gratitude, the learning from the best teachers, the inner work, the meditation… all of it.

Grow yourself and the right people will show up.

you feel alone

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How Restrictive Diets Mess with Our Brains and Lead to Bingeing

“Your body is precious. It is your vehicle for awakening. Treat it with care.” ~Buddha

When I went on my first diet in my teens (low-carb, it was back in the Atkins days), I wasn’t even overweight. I weighed less than 120 pounds, but my jeans had started to get a little tight, so I thought I needed to lose five pounds or so. At the time, I didn’t have a bad relationship with food; I just ate like a typical teenager—not the best choices.

About two hours in, I remember starting to obsess over the things I couldn’t eat and being desperate to be skinny ASAP so I could eat them again.

By mid day, I “failed.”

I caved and ate…. *gasp, shock, horror*… carbs.

And something weird happened. Instantly, I felt like I was bad.

It’s not just that I thought I had made a bad choice.

I thought, “You idiot, you can’t do anything right. Look at you, one meal in and you screwed up already. You may as well just eat whatever you want the rest of the day and start again tomorrow.”

I think I gained about five pounds from that attempt.

And I continued slowly gaining more and more weight every year after that—and feeling guiltier and guiltier every time I ate something “bad.”

Atkins low-carb miracle cure had failed me horribly and began a decades-long battle with food and my weight.

See, it wasn’t that I thought my choice was bad and then I just made a better choice next time; it was that I felt like I, as a person, was bad.

And what happens when we’re bad?

We get punished.

I didn’t realize until many years later, but those degrading thoughts and overeating the rest of the day were, in part, my way of punishing myself for being bad and eating the bad things.

The harder I tried to control what was going in, the worse it got and the more out of control I felt.

In my thirties I hit bottom, as they say, as a result of trying to follow a “clean eating meal plan.”

Four days into my first attempt to “eat clean” and strictly adhere to what someone else told me I should eat, I had my first-ever binge.

Prior to that, I had some minor food issues. I ate kind of crummy, had slowly been gaining weight, and felt guilty when I ate carbs (thanks, Atkins).

But a few days into “clean eating,” I was in the middle of a full-blown eating disorder.

The clean eating miracle craze may have made me look and feel amazing, but emotionally, it failed me horribly and began my years-long battle to recover from bulimia and binge eating.

But I thought it was just me. I was such a screw up, why couldn’t I just eat like a normal person?

I saw how much better I looked and felt when I was managing to “be good” and “eat clean,” but within a few days or weeks of “being good,” no matter how great I felt from eating that way, I always caved and ended up bingeing again.

And every time, I thought it was me. I told myself I was broken and weak and pathetic.

Even later, when I started training other people, my message was “If it’s not on your plan, it doesn’t go in your mouth” and “You can’t expect to get the body you want by eating the things that gave you the body you have.

I wanted clients to feel amazing and get the best results possible, so I gave them what I knew would accomplish those two things.

But, at the time, I didn’t know that it was actually those messages and rules that had created all my own issues with food, and I most definitely didn’t know they would have that affect on anyone else.

I thought everyone else was “normal.” I was just broken and weak and stupid—that’s why I struggled so hard to just “be good” and “stop screwing up.”  Normal people would see how much better they felt when they ate that way, and they’d automatically change and live happily ever after.

Ha. No.

The more people I trained, the more I became acutely aware that food is the thing most people struggle with the most, and I started recognizing the exact same thoughts and behaviors I’d experienced, in the majority of my clients.

And almost every single one of them also had a looong history of failed diets.

Hmmm. Maybe it wasn’t just me.

Not everyone goes to the extreme of bulimia, but the more I spoke with other people about their struggles with food and shared my own with them, the more I realized how shockingly pervasive disordered eating and eating disorders have become.

Binge eating is an eating disorder—one that more people struggle with than I ever imagined. Though, most people are horrified to admit it, and many may not even be willing to admit to themselves that they do.

I get that because it’s associated with lack of self-control and gluttony, and there’s a great deal of shame related to both of those things. But it actually has little to do with either, and you can’t change anything until you admit you’re struggling.

And disordered eating in general is even more pervasive.

Feeling guilt after eating is not normal. That’s disordered eating.

Restricting entire food groups is not normal. That’s disordered eating.

Severely restricting food in general in not normal. That’s disordered eating.

Beating yourself up for eating something “bad” is not normal. That’s disordered eating.

Starting and stopping a new diet every few weeks or months is not normal. That’s disordered eating.

Diet culture has us so screwed up that we spend most of our lives doing these things without ever realizing they’re not normal. And they’re negatively affecting our whole lives.

As I was working on my own recovery, I dove into hundreds of hours of research into dieting, habits, motivation, and disordered eating—anything I could get my hands on to help not only myself but my clients better stick to their plans.

It’s so easy, I used to think; there must be some trick to make us just eat what we’re supposed to eat!

But I learned the exact opposite.

I learned that trying to “stick to the plan” was actually the problem.

The solution wasn’t in finding some magic trick to help people follow their meal plans; the solution lied in not telling people what to eat in the first place.

There are many reasons behind why we eat what we eat, when we eat, and even the quantities we choose to eat; it just doesn’t work to tell someone to stop everything they know and just eat this much of this at this time of day, because at some later date it’ll make them skinny and happy.

Our brains don’t work that way.

Our brains actually work exactly the opposite.

As soon as we place restrictions on what we’re allowed or not allowed to eat, our brains start creating compulsions and obsessive thoughts that drive us to “cave.”

Have you ever noticed that as soon as you “can’t” have something, you automatically want it even more?

That’s a survival instinct that’s literally been hard-wired into our brains since the beginning of time.

In November 1944, post-WW II, physiologist Ancel Keys, PhD and psychologist Josef Brozek PhD began a nearly yearlong experiment on the psychological and physiological effects of starvation on thirty-six mentally and physically healthy young men.

The men were expected to lose one-quarter of their body weight. They spent the first three months eating a normal diet of 3,200 calories a day followed by six months of semi-starvation at approximately 1,600 calories a day (though 1,600 calories isn’t even all that low). The semi-starvation period was followed by three months of rehabilitation (2,000-3,200 calories a day) and finally an eight-week period of unrestricted rehabilitation, during which time there was no limitations on caloric intake.

Researchers closely monitored the physiological and psychological changes brought on by calorie restriction.

During the most restricted phase the changes were dramatic. Physically, the men became gaunt in appearance, and there were significant decreases in their strength, stamina, body temperature, heart rate, and even sex drive.

Psychologically, the effects were even more dramatic and mirror those almost anyone with any history of dieting can relate to.

They became obsessed with food. Any chance they had to get access to more food resulted in the men binge eating thousands of calories in a sitting.

Before the restriction period, the men were a lively bunch, discussing politics, current events, and more. During the restriction period, this quickly changed. They dreamt, read, fantasized, and talked about food all the time.

They became withdrawn, irritable, fatigued, and apathic. Depression, anxiety, and obsessive thinking (especially about food) were also observed.

For some men, the study proved too difficult—they were excluded as a result of breaking the diet or not meeting their weight loss goals.

We don’t struggle to follow diets and food rules because we lack willpower. It’s literally the way our brains are wired.

Why? Because from an evolutionary standpoint, we’re not designed to restrict food. Coded into our DNA is the overwhelming urge to survive, so when food (either over-all calories or food groups) is restricted, our brains begin to create urgency, compulsions, and strong desires that force us to fill its needs—and often, even more than its needs (binges).

We cave because our brains are hardwired to. Then the act of caving actually gets wired into our brains as a habit that we continue to repeat on autopilot every time we restrict food or food groups.

And it triggers the punish mode that I spoke of earlier, which only compounds the problem and slowly degrades our self-worth.

So every year millions of people are spending tens of billions of dollars on diets that are making the majority of us heavier, depressed, anxious, food-obsessed binge eaters, and destroying our self-worth.

Now I know all that sounds pretty bleak, but there is a way out. I know because I’ve found it.

It sounds like the opposite of what we should do, but it saved my life.

I gave myself permission to eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, and stopped trying to restrict. The scarier that sounds, the more you need to do it.

As soon as nothing is off limits, we can begin to slowly move away from the scarcity mindset and break the habits and obsessions created by dieting.

When we give ourselves unconditional permission to eat whatever we want, without guilt or judgment, we give ourselves the space to get mindful about our choices.

We give ourselves the opportunity to explore why we’re making the choices we’re making and the power to freely make different ones because we begin to value ourselves again.

When we remove the guilt and judgment, start to value ourselves again, and work on being mindful, we can begin to notice how the foods we’re eating make us feel and make choices from a place of love and kindness rather than fear, guilt, and punishment.

It sounds too simple to work, but it saved my life.

Rather than telling people what they should and shouldn’t eat, or trying to listen to someone who’s telling us what we should or shouldn’t eat, we have to build a connection with our bodies.

We have to learn to listen to them, to learn to distinguish the difference between physical hunger and emotional hunger. To stop eating when we’re not physically hungry, and to start feeling emotions instead of feeding them.

We have to break the habits that drive autopilot eating. We have to be mindful, trust the wisdom of our own bodies, and make choices based on how they make our bodies feel rather than what some diet tells us is the answer to happiness and being skinny.

About Roni Davis

Roni Davis is certified mindfulness-based, cognitive behavioral practitioner and creator of Cognitive Eating, a revolutionary new approach for healing weight & food issues using the power of, and science behind, cognitive behavioral strategies, mindfulness, acceptance and self-compassion. You can join her mission to rid the world of diets at RoniDavis.com or find her free workshop: ronidavis.com/free-training.

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