It is my pleasure to introduce you to an excellent new book on mindfulness entitled The Now Effect. The book was written by the psychologist and author, Elisha Goldstein. I was already a fan of Dr. Goldstein's work. His first book, A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, which was co-written by Bob Stahl PhD, Elisha Goldstein PhD, and Saki Santorelli EdD MA, is a great introduction to mindfulness and one I often recommend to my clients.
I recently had the opportunity to ask Elisha a few questions about his new book, The Now Effect. In this interview, he shares one of my favorite techniques from the book, the STOP method, a tool you can start using today! The book is easy to read and filled with stories and antidotes that keep you engaged in reading while learning these new skills.
Susan: In your new book, you talk about the ways in which mindfulness has been personally helpful to you. Please give us some examples of how mindfulness might it be helpful to someone who is reading the book.
Elisha: In The Now Effect I share a personal story that I haven't put out there before about a time in my life when I was living in San Francisco, working hard, but playing much harder. My life was out of control and I was heading in a life threatening direction. In my deepest darkest hour I was popped into a space of awareness where I gained a moment of clarity and choice -- this is what I call "The Now Effect." I recognized I didn't need to keep going down these destructive roads and could choose a different response. The following month is when mindfulness came into my life. This was intriguing and started my venture into mindfulness. That was about 12 years ago.
So, to get back to the question, many of us struggle with stress, anxiety, depression, addictive behaviors and even trauma and it's exacerbated by this automatic and rapid cycling of thoughts, emotions and sensations that spiral us into these states. We can learn to come down from these unhealthy states of mind, into the now, and choose a different way of relating to them that primes the mind for good, helps us feel more connected and opens the doors for greater clarity, possibility, opportunity and freedom.
This is all backed up by thousands of people's experiences, current evidence-based research in psychology, medicine and neuroscience coming out of leading institutions like Harvard, UCLA, Duke University, among others. There's so much more about how to bring this to life that's all in the book.
Susan: The STOP method is one of the many fantastic techniques you have in the book. Please describe the STOP method and an example of how to put it to use.
Elisha: STOP stands for Stop, Take a breath, Observe your experience (Body, Emotions, and Thoughts) and then Proceed by asking yourself what's most important to pay attention to.
Everyone loves this practice because it is so accessible and practical. You can use it in so many aspects of life. If you're a frantic parent and find yourself overwhelmed you can practice STOP for one minute to regain composure; if you're at work and you find yourself continually pulled into distractions, you can practice STOP to get back in touch with your intention. Before eating a meal on auto-pilot, practice STOP and give yourself the chance to enjoy what is there. If you're just wanting to be grounded more throughout the day, many people put a reminder in their phones to practice STOP a few times a day and get back in touch with what matters.
Susan: A person can be mindful in many areas of their life. Tells us about how you see mindfulness impacting the way we eat.
Elisha: This is such an important topic as you very well know, Susan, being such a prolific writer around mindful eating. It's one close to my heart as it was my introduction to mindfulness.
The fact is, we all have to eat and learning how to eat mindfully can not only help us with our health, but can also train our minds to be more mindful in other areas of life. Many of us are working through lunch nowadays so we just grab a bar or something quick and scarf it down while answering emails or working on projects. The food hardly gets broken down in the mouth and it makes it difficult for our digestive systems to process it. If we learn to eat slightly slower and pay attention to what we're eating, not only may we have an experience of enjoyment that we missed out on before, but our bodies are literally feeling better because the food is easier to digest.
Mindful eating can also train us to work with our stress. When we're mindfully eating we're paying attention to the sensation and taste of the food, then when our mind wanders onto rehearsing worries about the future or rehashing past events, we take note of it and gently guide ourselves back to the potentially delicious food in front of us.
Susan: What are some of the myths about mindfulness that you've encountered from clients and readers?
Elisha: One major myth about mindfulness is that it's for people who have peaceful minds, sitting on a clean wooden floor with their legs crossed and practicing a breathing technique.
Mindfulness is about training your mind to be curious about life itself. It's about learning how to break free from our automatic reactivity and get back in touch with the choice to live as if it mattered.
There are two ways to practice mindfulness as a way of life that are highly practical and can show immediate results. One way is through formal practice, that's setting time aside to engage in some form of mindfulness. This can be a body scan, breathing practice, lovingkindness practice, walking practice, or even an eating practice. The other is informal which is about how to integrate mindfulness into the things we're already doing.
When we're at work we may notice that our mind has drifted off worrying about all the upcoming catastrophes and in that moment we're present and clear. This is "The Now Effect," that moment of clarity where we get back in touch with choice to respond with intention. So we choose to gently redirect our attention to whatever is most important.
Or when we're walking we choose to intentionally bring awareness to the feeling of walking. Or when we wash the dishes, take a shower or eat a snack, we literally come to our senses and apply them to whatever is there.
In the book at the end of most chapters there are Now Moments. These are meant to give the reader the experience of popping into the now and in a minute integrating what was written so it moves beyond intellectual and into deeper recesses of the brain where change really happens.
Susan: Thank you for giving us a brief introduction to your new book Dr. Goldstein!
"Mindfulness is really for anyone that wants to get back in the driver's seat of their life and come back in touch with the aliveness that's there."-Dr. Elisha Goldstein
See Dr. Susan Albers' new book, But I Deserve This Chocolate: the 50 Most Common Diet-Derailing and How to Outwit Them. She is a psychologist for the Cleveland Clinic and author of five books on mindful eating including 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food and Eating Mindfully 2nd edition (pre-order now!). Her books have been noted in O, the Oprah magazine, Shape, Prevention, Health etc. and seen on the Dr. Oz TV show.