Pursue What Matters
Episode 16: Mindfulness with Dr. Jared Warren
Please excuse any typos, transcripts are generated by an automated service
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:00
You’ve heard that term. Maybe you’ve even read a book. But the question is still there. What is mindfulness? And how do I get started? Should I get started? What if I’m not very good at it?
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:11
Well, lucky for you today, I have a mindfulness guru here with me to talk shop all about it. So let’s jump in.
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:23
Hi, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Welcome to the pursue what matters podcast where we focus on what it takes to thrive in love and work. So today, I’m so excited because I have a guest here with me today, Dr. Jared Warren. He’s a licensed psychologist and associate professor of psychology at Brigham Young University. So welcome. We’re glad to have you. Thanks, Melissa. Yeah, so what comes to mind when you hear the word mindfulness? You know, we hear a lot about it these days, but it can still be a really fuzzy topic. So you know, what is it exactly? How can it help you? And how do you? How do you do it? Is it even something that you do? So today, we’re gonna answer those questions. And I’m really excited because there are some great answers to these questions. And as I mentioned, we’re going to talk with Dr. Jared Warren of Brigham Young University, who not only researches mindfulness, but he’s pretty passionate about this topic. Of course, in addition to his research, he teaches courses on mindfulness. And of course, he practices what he preaches. So he’s really the perfect person to talk to about this topic. So you know, before we jump into all the ways that mindfulness can help you pursue what matters, I want to tell you a little bit more about Dr. Warren. So first of all, Jared completed his undergrad and feel free to correct me at any time. So completed his undergrad degree in psychology at BYU. Go cougars. That’s where I did my undergrad to and completed both his master’s degree and doctoral degree in clinical child psychology from the University of Kansas in Lawrence. Okay, so you’re in the Midwest Rock Chalk, Jayhawk.
Dr. Melissa Smith 2:30
There you go. Okay. We kind of all did our time in the Midwest. I think it’s like a rite of passage. I
Dr. Jared Warren 2:36
Not a bad place for grad school.
Dr. Melissa Smith 2:38
No, it’s not. It’s a good place to study. At least for us, when we were in Missouri, it’s like, there wasn’t much more happening. But now is great place. Great place. Okay. So as part of his doctoral training, Dr. Warren completed an APA accredited, pre doctoral internship at the University of Washington, School of Medicine in Seattle and Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center that’s a great internship. By the way, I’m sure you had great experience there. Yeah, that’s awesome. at BYU, Jared has taught a variety of courses, but the majority are on his focus of child psychology. Right?
Dr. Melissa Smith 3:20
Yeah, it’s been child psychology, a lot of psychotherapy classes, because I’m in the graduate training program. Okay, training or clinical psychology students. And so in addition to the child and adolescent courses, more recently, it has been more on mindfulness based interventions, and undergraduate and graduate some classes and positive psychology, which may work well with the mindfulness topic as well.
Dr. Melissa Smith 3:50
Yeah. That’s awesome. Okay. So he spent the last eight years as an associate professor of psychology at Brigham Young University, and his students love him. So, you know, we went to the source of all wisdom, which is RateMyProfessor. I know, I know, students love it. Professors hate it. But, you know, Dr. Warren probably doesn’t hate it, because he’s rated really, really highly on RateMyProfessor. And one of the things that we came across is a lot of his students describe him as very zen, which I think is the perfect compliment when it comes to this topic of mindfulness. So I’m thinking, he really is the perfect person to be talking about this topic. So seriously, there were a lot of people that described you as very Zen. Okay. I love that.
Dr. Jared Warren 4:45
No, I have to live up to that.
Dr. Melissa Smith 4:47
Now. You totally have to live up to that. Yeah, no pressure. But I thought that was a great compliment to you. So Jared describes himself as a professor, researcher, psychologist, father. student of life I love that and photographer. So you know, I’ve covered the professor, researcher and psychologist thing. But I do want to mention that Jared is a phenomenal photographer. So I’ve seen some of his photography, and it’s amazing. So I’m going to link to his Instagram account and his website in my show notes. So you can check him out, because it’s, it’s really fantastic stuff. So his specialty is nature at night. Is that right?
Dr. Jared Warren 5:30
Well, I do love landscape photography, and have spent more time over the years with like Astro photography.
Dr. Melissa Smith 5:38
Dr. Jared Warren 5:38
So yeah, nightscapes in the Milky Way, and stuff like, it’s actually really kind of complimented my mindfulness interests in a number of ways.
Dr. Melissa Smith 5:50
Yeah I mean, I would think so because full disclosure, I do mindfulness, because I really need it in my life, because like, I naturally am not Zen at all. I’m sure that’s really hard to tell about me. But you know, when it comes to photography, like, I, I’m not a patient photographer, and I think it’s, it’s, it goes hand in hand with the like, I need mindfulness because it doesn’t come naturally. Because, you know, to be able to, to kind of get the right photo, it requires the presence.
Dr. Jared Warren 6:31
Yeah. And I feel like with photography, I mean, getting good at it. It’s kind of learning how to see.
Dr. Melissa Smith 6:40
Dr. Jared Warren 6:40
I think with mindfulness, it’s also really, that it’s about learning how to see in perspective. So there have been a number of ways that yeah, that hobby has really reinforced my mindfulness interests. In fact, briefly, what comes to mind is, so you know, I, I got into landscape photography, loved the experiences outdoors. But what I noticed happening, were times when, you know, I’m getting up at 4:30am, to hike out a couple miles to this spot that I had scouted out the day before. And I’m hoping for this, you know, epic sunrise, so I can post on Instagram and have 1000s of people say how great it is. And so I’m wanting, you know, these great conditions, and then it doesn’t work out or like the clouds kind of cover the sunrise and it’s all just flat or something. And I noticed myself feeling like frustrated and upset. Like I wanted things to be a certain way. But with mindfulness, it’s about, you know, an awareness of that reaction. And I noticed, here I am in this amazing place, you know, maybe in a national park or in the back country somewhere. And, and those feelings of frustration could get in the way of enjoying the experience of you know, that time in nature. And so, it kind of helps pull for me a reminder of Okay, you know, what, yeah, this is what I wanted. This is the way it is. And there’s absolutely enough you know, great things about this moment that I can enjoy whatever happens. So it’s, it’s been interesting. It’s Yeah, nice, mindful reminder.
Dr. Melissa Smith 8:20
Okay, so you’ve you’ve got to check out his photography. So this is really cool. We found this out about him. So he was the artist in residence at Okay, tell, I don’t know if I’ve got this exactly. Right. at Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument two years ago.
Dr. Jared Warren 8:36
Dr. Melissa Smith 8:37
That’s, that’s really cool. So this competition is really steep. And it’s held annually down in Escalante, Utah. And that’s, I mean, that’s quite a distinction to win that.
Dr. Jared Warren 8:50
It was kind of a random thing that I applied for, because I was on sabbatical. I wasn’t teaching that semester. And, yeah, I was really fortunate, they paid me to go down and spend a month down in the Grand Staircase area and shoot photos. And it was awesome.
Dr. Melissa Smith 9:08
That’s so cool. That’s so cool. So we’re gonna link to, you know, some of some of his photos and of course, his website, so you’ve got to, you’ve got to check it out. And, you know, like, like Jared said, it, it sounds like it’s really inspired some of his mindfulness. So, you know, I definitely want to learn more about that because that’s, that’s really inspiring. So okay, so now you have an opportunity to you know, set the record straight or, you know, finish that introduction. But tell us a little bit more about how you became interested in mindfulness and you know, you get the last word on your introduction here, okay.
Dr. Jared Warren 9:53
No, that all sounded great, but it reminded me of another quick story. Yeah, shows It was sort of the was I look back. And this happened about eight or 10 years ago. But it was a change in my own personal trajectory that really coincided with mindfulness practices. And it’s also related to photography. Yeah, in fact, it was about eight or 10 years ago that I got a camera. And I got it, you know, thinking, I’m going to use this to take pictures of my kids and, you know, watch him grow up and stuff like that. But we were camping down near Panguitch lake in southern Utah. And it was about an hour from Bryce Canyon. And I hadn’t been there in like, at least a decade or so I didn’t remember what it looked like. And it was during a time in my professional life, where it, the university, I was going up for our tenure review. And for those that don’t know, in academics, for academic researcher person, you get to this point where basically they evaluate your research and your teaching your other work and decide if they’re going to keep you around or ask you to find something else to do. So it was really stressful,
Dr. Melissa Smith 11:11
Kind of gut wrenching!
Dr. Jared Warren 11:12
Kind of stressful. And so I was working a lot of hours, you know, really focused on that, you know, as you might expect. But, you know, down there with my family for the weekend, that I’m gonna try to run out to Bryce Canyon for the sunrise, and, you know, try out my new camera. So I get up at like, 430 in the morning, it was more than an hour drive to get out there. It was dark, when I started. Remember, deer kept jumping out in front of me on the road and trying to avoid them. But I noticed on the horizon, it’s starting to get lighter. And I didn’t know exactly where I was going. So I was worried I was going to miss it, because you know, the sun is getting ready to come up. So I step on it, find this parking area that leads to an overlook that I’m guessing, you know, might work for a good view, the sun’s about to come up.
Dr. Jared Warren 12:08
So I’m sprinting out to the edge of the canyon, with my gear, get to the edge, set up my tripod and camera really fast, just in time to see, you know, the sun start to pick up over the horizon. And for those that have been to Bryce Canyon, they’re I don’t even know how to describe the experience of when that light started hitting the, the Hutus, you know, the rock formations, and you get this surreal orange glow. And I mean, I would I would describe describe it as a kind of spiritual experience. And something clicked in my head, it was like, number one, I need more of this. I need, I need balance. And what I also recognized in that experience for a couple of things that I’ve been learning more about in my study of positive psychology and mindfulness, I mean, that sense of presence. also kind of a flow experience where, you know, you’re, you know, that sense of immersion in the experience. And, you know, I wasn’t, I wasn’t thinking in that moment about, you know, being stressed about my job and other daily stressors. And it was a perfect moment, I was like, I need more of this. And I don’t want to miss these opportunities. And so, at that time, I’ve been starting to learn more about mindfulness, partly because of my work as a clinical psychologist, but also just, you know, personally. And as I look back, you know, again, it was about eight or 10 years ago, I see this trajectory change in my own life. And if you’d asked me 10 years ago, you know how things were going, I just, Oh, that’s great. You know, life is good. Yeah, family’s good, job is good. But I didn’t realize how much better it could be. When you bring in that sense of perspective, that comes with mindfulness in some of these related areas, in positive psychology, it’s living your best life. So I, I made some changes, including I started that’s where my landscape photography took off. Okay. And, and also just as a shift in my emphasis in my work as well to find the things that I was most passionate about. Melissa, it’s been amazing. Yeah. And, and I credit, you know, my mindfulness practice to some of that, and I am a little bit of an evangelist now when it comes to Mindfulness and positive psychology because there’s something in there for everyone.
Dr. Melissa Smith 15:05
Absolutely. Yeah, I agree with you. That’s, that’s cool. That’s really inspiring. Thanks for sharing that.
Dr. Jared Warren 15:11
And to end the story. I’m still at BYU, so I did actually pass the tenure, that worked out. Happy ending to the story.
Dr. Melissa Smith 15:23
Isn’t it cool though that that. I mean, that’s, that’s actually so cool that with that trajectory, you could kind of shift some of that research, focus and pursue that passion. Yeah, a little bit more with your research. So I love that. Okay. Very cool. Well, okay, so let’s start. Let’s start out with the basics. What is mindfulness?
Dr. Jared Warren 15:51
That’s a great question.
Dr. Melissa Smith 15:52
I know, it’s a big question.
Unknown Speaker 15:53
It’s a big question. It’s a good place to start. And so you asked that question, and there’s some textbook answers. Sure. So you hear textbook answers like, well, mindfulness is present moment, awareness with acceptance. But like, what does that mean?
Dr. Melissa Smith 16:16
There are a lot of big words, there
Dr. Jared Warren 16:18
I’d probably kind of the next way to describe it in this kind of my definition, but I define mindfulness as it’s an awareness of our thoughts, our emotions, our experiences, that gives us the perspective to act in healthy ways. So, you know, it’s related to our everyday experiences, it’s getting to know how our mind works. It’s working in healthier ways with the normal emotions that we experience as humans, because, and I think this is really foundational for understanding why this is so important. But as humans, the human brain is wired in a way that focuses on our survival. we’re wired more to survive than to thrive. And sometimes because of that we get in our own way. And mindfulness allows us to sort of be more aware of what’s going on so that we can make healthier choices.
Dr. Melissa Smith 17:32
Yeah, to kind of step back from that just a little bit.
Dr. Jared Warren 17:36
Yeah, so it gives us perspective. So other words, we’d throw in there for defining mindfulness, it’s about awareness. It’s about perspective. It’s about clarity. And, and also, it’s a two kind of expanding our, our agency, our, our ability to know what our choices are, and then maybe pick the best choice with with a greater perspective.
Dr. Melissa Smith 18:03
Yeah, that’s great. Yeah, I often, kind of think of it in terms, I, I use all of those terms, I often also think of it in terms of becoming a curious observer, to your experience, right, and this idea of your, your present, but you also have a little bit of separation, you know, so this idea of, of perspective of it’s like, okay, yeah, I see these emotions, I see this situation, but I’m, I’m a little bit at a removed from it. Which kind of lends that perspective. Yeah. So, yeah. Okay. Very cool. So, so tell us a little bit about, you know, where these practices come from. And then, I think I think what can can feel pretty confusing for a lot of people, it’s something that certainly comes up for people that I work with clinically is what’s the difference between mindfulness and meditation?
Dr. Jared Warren 19:08
Great. So we’re, we’re mindfulness practices, yeah, from and I’ll start by saying they’re, they’re parts of what I’d say is mindfulness that come from a lot of different traditions, different religious or philosophical traditions, but I think where we get most of the practices that have been studied in the research, they come from Buddhist tradition. And, and I would say to people to that we’re not actually talking about Buddhism as a religion here, I it’s more of a, a psychology, a science of the mind. And so it’s really just a set of practices that help us develop this awareness of how our minds work. And the difference between mindfulness and meditation mindfulness is, was when we’re describing the quality of that awareness. And meditation is a method for cultivating that awareness. So many, sometimes the terms get used interchangeably. And sometimes that’s fine. But if we want to make a clear distinction, meditation tend to be a set of practices like you know, sitting meditation or walking, meditation, formal practices that help help us cultivate that habit of mindfulness. But there are also a lot of informal ways to practice mindfulness, including just, if you’re in traffic, and you take a moment to notice the sensation of your hands on the steering wheel, I mean, even just a few seconds of that, that’s an informal way to also cultivate that. Awareness. So it’s true. Also that, you know, with this gets better with practice, yeah, there’s kind of a dose response relationship. The more people practice, the easier that ability to kind of notice what’s going on happens. So we try to, we try to find ways to practice so that it becomes more natural, just in our everyday life. So yeah, mindfulness is kind of the bigger picture of that quality of awareness. And meditation is a time tested and research supported way to bring that about, but there are a lot of ways to do that. In fact, you know, like I said, you know, in a lot of different traditions, or, you know, religious traditions, it also just comes down to giving ourselves opportunities for stillness. So people can do that through prayer, people can do that, you know, through meditation, people can do that through yoga, or Tai Chi. And so there’s a lot of ways to enter that. That space of practicing and cultivating these skills. And meditation happens to be the one that we have a lot of research on. Yeah. So sometimes they get used interchangeably, but that’s the distinction.
Dr. Melissa Smith 22:14
Okay. Yeah. Andas you know, as we, as we move forward, we’ll talk about, you know, some some ways to practice that. But one thing that I have found is, is sometimes we try and overcomplicate it, but I love what you say about just finding moments for stillness. But I think sometimes, you know, in our kind of overstressed, you know, complicated life, even that is like, what, like, how do you even do that? You know, so, but I love that idea, like, these moments of stillness are noticing your hands on the steering wheel. Wow, like I’m really gripping that steering wheel. noticing that, so. Okay, so now Now let’s talk about, you know, the whys. So why? Why would you consider mindfulness right, so what are tell us about the benefits of mindfulness? Maybe some of the research you mentioned some of the research around this.
Dr. Jared Warren 23:19
So most people have probably heard that there is a lot of research on this. Most people. In fact, I think, most commonly, people get their introduction to mindfulness, because they’ve heard that it’s helpful for things like depression, or anxiety, or insomnia, or chronic pain or other clinical issues that, you know, as psychologists we might work with. And that’s all true. And there’s a lot of really interesting and promising research on that. And I mean, that field of research continues to evolve and lots of fascinating stuff that’s coming out of that. But I would say to that, there, there’s a lot more reasons and maybe even more important reasons to practice mindfulness than just to get rid of some challenging issue that bother us. In fact, there’s a little bit of a paradox, because, you know, as part of mindfulness, we were starting to cultivate this acceptance in the sense of awareness of Okay, this is the way things are and a lot of times we make things worse by our resistance to a situation. Like I don’t want to feel this way or I’m stuck in traffic. You know, this is so frustrating this, I’m missing out on this and this, and that reaction, that frustration, actually increases the distress that we’re experiencing, and starts to, you know, blind us to what the options are to us in that moment, right. And so in a really broad way, I feel like mindfulness promotes just our quality of life. And it compliments all kinds of other important things in life, you know, positive attributes and goals that we have that that may not have anything to do with, you know, some, you know, specific issue like pain or insomnia or anxiety or something like that. And I mean, even just something as simple as well, Alright, here’s, here’s an example that comes to mind because it’s my life. I’m working hard right now I’m developing some online courses to help people learn about skills in mindfulness and positive psychology. The first one I’m going to launch next month is on self compassion. So I think this is going to be super helpful for people. I’ve done research on this, people have already gone through parts of this program, and you know, are describing it as life changing. But yesterday, I, so what I don’t know much about is like, marketing stuff like this. Yeah. So I’ve been trying to learn about it. But I’m a I’m a psychologist, I’m not a business person. Yeah, marketer. And so as like, Okay, I’m gonna try to do a Facebook ad to let people know about this free self compassion assessment that my research team developed. So I send that out. And it’s kind of like crickets. And I’m like, dang it. What am I? What am I doing? What am I doing wrong? Do people and so here’s what happens is my mind starts, yeah, producing all of these thoughts that are pretty self critical. And discouraging. Maybe no one really cares about this. Maybe, you know, I don’t know what I’m doing. And and there’s a risk if I am not aware of what my mind is doing in that moment. Yeah. That that can drag me down into a cycle of discouragement. And if I follow that, I end up going home and binge watching Netflix shows with a gallon of ice cream. Which there’s nothing wrong with that maybe but if I’m not aware of
Dr. Melissa Smith 27:16
could be problematic.
Dr. Jared Warren 27:18
Yeah, what I want to be aware of is that I still have choices, I still have options. And if I notice what my mind is doing, and I can say, okay, that’s an interesting thought. But there’s also other possibilities. Like, you know, what, there’s kind of a science to ad targeting in Facebook ads that I still don’t know about. And maybe there’s some tweaks that I can make. And maybe I should give it more than, you know, 12 hours to see how things go. So mindfulness brings to our everyday experience, the possibility of noticing what, what our mind is doing, what other options there are. And and when we get better at that we can decide is that a thought that I want to run with? If I believe that thought 100%? Does that take me to where I want to go? And if not, mindfulness gives us the opportunity to change directions to a different thought. And and it gives us i said earlier about that idea. Maybe it increases our agency. Yeah. So there’s a quote I like from it’s attributed to Viktor Frankl. He said, between stimulus and response, there’s a space. And in that space lies our ability to choose a response. And in that response lies our power and our freedom.
Dr. Melissa Smith 28:39
Yeah. I love it. Yes,
Dr. Jared Warren 28:42
And what I feel like happens as we develop this skill. It increases, mindfulness increases that space between stimulus and response. It gives us a split second to notice. Okay, I’ve got more options. And with a little more perspective, and equanimity, yeah, make the choice that is really in line with what we want in line with our values, what we, you know, the core of who we are, instead of just knee jerk reaction to what the circumstances are pulling from us. So I feel like it expands that space between stimulus and response. And imagine all the aspects of everyday life where that skill could be helpful.
Dr. Melissa Smith 29:32
Wow. Yeah,yeah, huge.
Dr. Jared Warren 29:35
I mean, every day. There are opportunities where if if we’re just, you know, if our mind is buzzing and going 100 miles an hour, and we’re not, we’re not noticing that process, we can miss out on our life, we can miss out on opportunities that we value. So okay, that perspective that awareness gives us a chance to maybe change, Choose what we really want.
Dr. Melissa Smith 30:02
Okay, so I want I want you to maybe even break this down a little bit more for some of our listeners. So if we were all of our listeners actually, right, if we think about kind of the role, and you kind of did this a little bit, but the role of thoughts and emotions and right, like this space to be able to choose, because so it sounds like part of what happens is, right? If we’re not, we want to be mindful of what’s happening with our thoughts and not, not get swayed by them too much. Yeah. Right. So, so talk to us a little bit about kind of the role of our thoughts and, and the role of mindfulness and kind of keeping us grounded or keeping perspective.
Dr. Jared Warren 30:49
Sure, and I think some helpful context for this is that sort of the starting point is that the human brain is amazing. I mean, we all have amazing things that, you know, our human brains can do for us, and especially, we’ve got this amazing prefrontal cortex that helps us to, to plan and evaluate and anticipate and learn from past experiences and, and make, you know, judgments and analysis and all that is really important. And there’s a risk, though, if we’re not aware of, or we’re spending so much time in like planning mode, or evaluating mode, that that can keep us from living in this moment. And so what mindfulness practices do is help us get a little more perspective, be aware of how the mind works, be aware of thoughts as they arise and, and come to a place where we recognize that thoughts are, are just thoughts that thoughts are not facts, that the minds job is to produce thoughts. And sometimes it’s in when it’s the minds is trying to watch out for us keep us safe. Sometimes the mind produces thoughts that are unhelpful for those circumstances. Like, Oh, no, no one’s gonna like my self compassion course. Because you know, this ad isn’t performing well. Yeah. Well, that’s a thought, you know, it’s trying to watch out for me and keep me safe. But is that something that I want to run my behavior to run my actions? Yeah. In this case? Probably not.
Dr. Melissa Smith 32:36
Yeah. So that Yeah, the thoughts aren’t necessarily accurate. They’re not necessarily helpful.
Dr. Jared Warren 32:42
Yeah. So. So mindfulness practices, train us to notice thoughts as thoughts to not necessarily take them as fact, or necessarily the truth and give us that perspective to decide, you know, which thoughts we want to run with, with emotions, it’s a similar process. And you think about, you know, how emotions are so good for us. And all, you know, we that’s part of what makes us human. Yeah. And there are circumstances that pull for strong emotions,
Dr. Melissa Smith 33:16
They can be problematic!
Dr. Jared Warren 33:19
That if we’re lost in the emotion, if it’s so all consuming, that we can’t see what the options are, then sometimes we if if some circumstance pulls out anger in me, there might be like a, an automatic reaction to that circumstance that isn’t healthy and isn’t appropriate or isn’t going to get me to what I really want. And so, mindfulness practices give us an awareness of those emotions. And sometimes, sometimes these are hard emotions. You know, when we’re talking about, you know, anxiety and depression and discouragement, and it’s natural not to want to feel that way. But like, like I said before, sometimes the reaction to try to push down, resist suppress difficult emotions is also unhealthy. There’s a psychologist that I admire a lot. His name’s Chris Grimmer. He’s done a lot of work around self compassion related areas. Like there’s a phrase from him. He says, when we resist and try to push down difficult emotions, they go down to the basement and lift weights. And so it’s like, they end up they come they might go away temporarily, but then they might come back stronger in and give us even more trouble. Yeah. And so we, as humans spend a lot of time trying to get rid of things that feel uncomfortable, and that often ends up being counterproductive. Yeah, so with mindfulness practices, we try to make room for the emotional experience, we try to observe it from a perspective where it’s, it’s the difference between I mean, if there’s a hurricane going on, going on, you know, on the, on the surface, and we’re down in it, we’re getting beat up, you know, we’re getting hit by debris. And I mean, that is hard. But there’s always a place where we can get up above that storm, and observe it, and it’s still there. But we’re an observer of the experience instead of being consumed by it. It’s possible as we get better at this, to find more of those moments where we can observe that emotional storm instead of being completely beat up by it. Yeah. And so, again, you know, you might still feel that distress, but you you’re observing it, instead of like, identifying with it, and being all consumed by it. And, again, put in a better perspective to decide, alright, what do I what do I want to do next?
Dr. Melissa Smith 36:12
Yeah, yeah, I kind of think of it as mindfulness helps you to become the calm in the storm. You know, because life, life will continue to be challenging, right? Like, there will always be challenges Absolutely. In life. But how? How can you learn to be the calm? Yeah, in a storm?
Dr. Jared Warren 36:39
Yeah, I like that. I like a similar analogy is, you know, that you think about the sky again, I mean, whatever comes through whatever weather comes through the sky is big enough to hold the whole experience. And, you know, as we as we get better at this, you know, we can we can be having a difficult time, but still have that perspective to hold it all, and not let it run our decisions, and healthy ways.
Dr. Melissa Smith 37:14
Okay, so then, it seems like and, you know, I’m, I consider myself a student of mindfulness, it’s something that I’ve personally found a lot of value in and certainly, professionally, with, with people I work with I, I preach about it all the time. Right? But it’s, it seems like, right, we don’t want to be too swayed by, you know, the thoughts, we don’t want to be too swayed by our emotions, right? That they’re their sources of information. Right. So what’s our What’s our guiding? What’s our guiding light? Is it? Is it values? Is it purpose? What, what would you say to that? Or am I making sense of it?
Dr. Jared Warren 38:06
No, I like that I think this brings in, and this is great, because it’s very personal to the individual, like, you know, it is probably a good complimentary practice for a person to spend time really clarifying their values. And, you know, what do I want my life to be about? And, you know, how do I want to spend my time and what is most important to me? Because that is an anchor for for us. Yeah. And I think that combined with, you know, practicing mindful awareness, the mindfulness gives us the opportunity to see things as they are, and, and then it’s easier to go with, okay, based on my values based on what’s important to me, what direction do I want to go? So it’s, it’s like, it’s like an anchor, and it’s like a compass, to can help us decide, alright, this is, this is what I really want to do with my life. This is how I want to spend my time in this emotionally charged situation. What do my values dictate? That Yeah, is most important to me. So I think that is a really helpful complimentary practice to spend time kind of deciding what we really want our lives to be about.
Dr. Melissa Smith 39:30
Clarifying that. Yeah. Okay. Cool. Okay. So so then if we, if we go back to this idea of, you know, the benefits of mindfulness, which, you know, I think can be helpful for people, but ultimately, maybe that’s a little bit of a misnomer, right? Because it’s like, yeah, like on the surface, and this is, this is an area of your research. There are lots of benefits of mindfulness. And yet Some of the work with some some of the work with mindfulness is that we want to be careful about, you know, labeling and that it, you know, kind of this idea of we’re holding it all. And it’s, it’s not about even necessarily reducing pain or, you know, that sort of thing. Yeah, I don’t know, what do you what are your thoughts on that?
Dr. Jared Warren 40:28
Yeah, I’m glad you brought that up again. Cuz I started alluding to this before. This paradox. Exactly. And like I, so I, sometimes I, I debate how I want to present this to people for the first time and why
Dr. Melissa Smith 40:45
I think it’s a really hard one for people to,
Dr. Jared Warren 40:48
because, yeah, we’ve got research that it’s helpful for all these issues. But you actually, don’t you number one, this isn’t a magic wand,
Dr. Melissa Smith 40:58
yeah, don’t get too attached,
Dr. Jared Warren 41:00
People are expecting this to be, you know, the answer to fix, you know, all these issues, they’re probably going to be disappointed. And so what we want to bring to this endeavor, is, is that that curiosity that you described before, it’s like, Okay, what would it be like, if I approach these issues, from a different perspective? And would I be okay, with? Yeah, let’s say, I’ve got some chronic back pain, I would love for that to go away. I’ve heard mindfulness you know, can help with that. And, and it can, but like, if I’m approaching it as some tool that I’m going to use to fix some specific issue, that kind of runs counter to the acceptance that we’re talking about the natural curiosity that that we bring to the experience. And so the paradox is, is we let go of the need for it to be something for us to do some specific thing for us
Dr. Melissa Smith 41:58
The expectation, right?
Dr. Jared Warren 42:00
Yeah, we let go of that we notice benefits in all kinds of areas of our life. And, and maybe it includes improving my back pain, but it’s not because I needed it to be that way. It’s more of a side effect of the practice that I’m happy happened. Yeah. And so honestly, like, even if we didn’t have all this research on how it’s helpful for this, and this and this, I don’t think that would matter. Because I think it’s more about that broad quality of life that it can bring to a person. And I’m trying to think of a good analogy for that. But like, I mean, if you had, let’s just take reading. Yeah, maybe a bizarre example, though
Dr. Melissa Smith 42:51
This is a good one, because I love reading.
Dr. Jared Warren 42:52
Okay, so let’s do that would you say that reading? Like, is like, inherently a good thing? Like what it? Could reading, you know, fix all these problems that you have? Well, it could, but it depends on how you use it. Yeah. And even if like, reading didn’t give all these random benefits that the research shows, then isn’t your life better? Because you can read? Yeah, it has nothing to do with, you know, fixing issues in your life. So I kind of think of it as more of a broad, aspect of, of, again, perspective and awareness and quality of life. And I think there’s, it’s, it’s kind of like just an open invitation. So if someone is intrigued or curious, like, well, I’ve heard of this can be helpful. You know, let that curiosity bring you to experiment with these practices. And there’s a saying that comes out of the, the Buddhist tradition, the term from the Pali language that this was written down in it’s a key pasito which translated means Come and see. See for yourself, you know, come come almost like an experiment. not needing it to have a specific outcome, but then see what happens as you work with those practices. And millions of people have been pleasantly surprised. Yeah, show what the actual brain mechanisms that are involved that make this happen. Yeah. And so just at a high level, an example of what we’re noticing happening. This comes from just amazing neuroscience research with
Dr. Melissa Smith 44:36
just so cool. What we can do now, just even since we were probably in grad school.
Dr. Jared Warren 44:41
Exactly, the fMRI research, the functional magnetic resonance imaging where you’re looking at how activity in the brain can be really specific. So we have the area of the brain called the amygdala. This is kind of a threat detection centers sort of like looking out for potential danger. Yours are threats. And for most humans, that’s if you’re looking at it like a thermometer or a thermostat, it’s kind of set a little bit too high. Because for our ancestors, that kind of increased awareness of potential threats was really adaptive for them. But in our modern day life that ends up getting applied to all kinds of situations where it’s not actually necessary. And so that, that, that amygdala activity, and so, and in good circumstances, the prefrontal cortex will tell the amygdala, okay, this isn’t actually a situation you need to be that worried about your life is not in danger. You know, it’s, it’s okay. It’s gonna be okay. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So mindfulness practices help modulate that amygdala response, increases the connectivity between the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala. So that prefrontal cortex is saying, hey, amygdala, it’s okay, you know, these are the circumstances you’re going to be okay. And we experience our subjective experience, because of that is a more appropriate response to the stressors that we experience every day. So that instead of if I get cut off in traffic, and I have this, you know, response that’s like, Oh, this person’s trying to hurt me or something like that, yeah, it’s a calm reaction that, okay, that’s what just happened, but it’s okay. And I don’t need to react in this crazy way. And, you know, a thousand, other everyday examples,
Dr. Melissa Smith 45:27
So less reactivity, more calm
Dr. Jared Warren 46:45
And we’re seeing, you know, to summarize, I think we’re seeing the mechanisms being more just adaptive, emotional responses for the circumstances. There’s some other research in areas of the brain related to our sense of self concept. And that improves brain functioning in healthy ways. And so we’re starting to get a handle from, you know, like, the neural mechanisms about why it’s important. But it’s interesting, because like, you know, these are practices that, you know, come out of, you know, the mindfulness tradition that’s 2500 years old. So, you know, there’s 2500 years of kind of case, example, research and people saying, Oh, this is the way it helps. And now neuroscience that’s showing why that is the experience that people are having. Yeah. So that’s been an interesting, interesting thing for research.
Dr. Melissa Smith 47:42
That’s, that’s pretty cool. Yeah. So okay, so, so yeah, that that, you know, really takes me back to kind of this next question is, you know, how, how it can help specifically, and I think you, you know, you really answered that, and I don’t know if there’s more to say about that, but, you know, kind of a specific target. So, right, it sounds like definitely with distress, tolerance, that sort of thing. Yeah.
Dr. Jared Warren 48:07
Yeah, I mean, a term I would use as a psychologist, is psychological flexibility.
Dr. Melissa Smith 48:15
I like that.
Dr. Jared Warren 48:16
And that term, I mean, could be applied to a lot of different, you know, everyday behaviors and situations, but with whatever comes up in life, and we’re cultivating the psychological flexibility to respond in healthier ways. And so when we’re talking about specific benefits, while there’s, you know, potentially thousands Yeah, we’ve got research on on the, on the big ones. And it’s interesting to see how that plays out just to normal life.
Dr. Melissa Smith 48:45
Yeah. So right, you’re going through your day, and the, you know, the regular stressors and challenges of life, you have more psychological flexibility, less emotional reactivity, more calm, more groundedness, that sort of thing.
Dr. Jared Warren 49:05
And to be to give more specific examples, but like, it’s things like, I mean, if you’ve had, if you’re in a stressful work environment, yeah, a lot of there’s a lot going on, and it’s things that people experience all the time. It brings an equanimity to see everything that’s happening, but still have that perspective to decide, alright, this is going to be the best way forward. Yeah. And then something simple like oh, and let me just add to that. So for a lot of people in those stressful jobs, and now I’m thinking about some research that’s specific to high stress jobs, like first responders, you know, police officers and nurses and social workers and people that deal with a lot of stress. What we learn is that they’re able to handle all of that, not take it with them as as much as we might otherwise, and still be able to help the people that they’re trying to serve in healthy ways. And, and that comes out of the compassion research and some of the stuff that’s related to this, these mindfulness practices. But then even just something as simple, let’s say you had a stressful day, you go home, and you’re sitting down with one of your kids, talking about their day. And they have something that they want to tell you. And so you’re listening, but then your phone, you get a message on your phone, on phone. And maybe if you weren’t aware, you’re just your automatic response would be to pull out that phone and start looking at the message you just received. And if you’re, if you’re not aware of what’s going on, you might be missing an important opportunity for connection with your loved one. And contrast that with, okay, yeah, I get this message on my phone. I’m aware that it’s there. And I know that can wait. And I’m going to give my full attention to my family member right now. And even just that moment, I mean, you can’t even put a value on how important it is to be present in that moment. So mindfulness gives us those opportunities in simple moments like that, to put our attention, where we really want it to be in that moment. Yeah.
Dr. Melissa Smith 51:31
Well, and recognizing that those small moments are really the big moments. I mean, that’s, that’s what it’s all about.
Dr. Jared Warren 51:41
And like, what would it be like to be toward the end of your life and look back and realized that you missed a lot of those? Because you weren’t there?
Dr. Melissa Smith 51:54
You weren’t present? Yeah, you might have been there. But you weren’t really there. Yeah. Yeah. Well, and just back to this point of, you know, stressful jobs. And, you know, I think certainly thinking about a lot of our listeners in terms of leaders, you know, I think one of the, one of the biggest challenges and kind of one of the biggest responsibilities for leaders is that job of perspective, right to be able to carry the big picture, without losing sight of details. Yeah. Right. And to be able to know what matters. Yeah. Right. It’s huge, it’s huge.
Dr. Jared Warren 52:36
So yeah, that perspective, like you said, just being able to manage all the details, but still letting your decisions be based on that big picture perspective. Instead of just the next five minute stressors.
Dr. Melissa Smith 52:53
Yeah. So big. Okay. So, before we talk about specific resources, you know, us so you’ve been teaching, you know, the skills? You both are, you know, in some online courses, but also, at the university level, what have you, what have you learned from your students in terms of, you know, how this information how these principles have changed their lives? So, you know, like, for our listeners, like, why, why should they? Why should they consider, you know, some of the resources that we might offer to them?
Dr. Jared Warren 53:35
Well, the short answer is that for a lot of people, it actually is life changing. Yeah. So I’m just finishing a research study on self compassion, where we use a lot of these mindfulness practices, and self compassion is just learning to be aware of emotions, learning to just be kind to ourselves, not letting that inner critic work over time, just awareness of those thoughts. So there’s a lot of benefits there. And the so we have the research results that are looking really impressive, but there’s the comments that come from participants in in the course that they’re going through, and, and dozens of these about how it’s been, like, transformational so far. And I hesitate even to say that, because I don’t want to like oversell it to people because we don’t want people to do it just because like, Oh, this is gonna make all the difference. It can and yet, it’s really just about that change of perspective. And I think the other thing I’d say that I’m learning from students and participants, is that often we get in our own way when it comes to like, the expectations for what it’s supposed to be like. Yeah. And I really think people coming in understanding that, you know, it’s a process and it takes practice. And just like if a person I was interested in improving their physical health, you know, they would, they would go to the gym or they’d be more active, and there would be time that they set aside. And if you if you haven’t been to the gym in a while, and you’ve got a friend, that’s all excited about it, and they take you to the gym and put you on a treadmill and set the incline, and you’re running eight miles an hour. I mean, if that isn’t something you’d been doing recently, that would be exhausting. And like, not pleasant at all. And so I think people coming into the practice, sometimes they feel frustrated, because it’s like, Oh, I can’t, my mind’s too busy, or I can’t, you know, sit still or you know, and it has more to do with managing expectations and understanding that, that that’s what it’s like. I mean, our minds are really busy. And sometimes you notice that it’s feels even more active once you start practicing mindfulness, and meditation. But it’s because you’re starting to be more aware of what your mind is doing. That’s totally normal. That’s okay. doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong. Not doing it wrong. It’s almost impossible to do it wrong. Unless you just don’t do it, you only do it wrong.
Dr. Melissa Smith 56:17
Yeah, just just just take the time.
Dr. Jared Warren 56:20
Yeah. So coming in and managing expectations. It’s not about clearing your mind. It’s not about having some kind of Zen experience. Yeah. Each time that in the practice, as you notice that your mind has wandered, and you bring it back to the breath or whatever anchor you’re using. That’s like a repetition of lifting weights at the gym, you got to go through that. Each time. each repetition builds that capacity. And over time, we start getting better at it. And over time, we start noticing the benefits in our everyday life. So what I’m when I’m trying to work more with is, is people’s expectations, once they start that, Oh, I can’t do this, that feels like torture. I you know, my mind is so busy. Well, that’s because you’re a human. And yeah, brain is working.
Dr. Melissa Smith 57:07
And living in this world.
Dr. Jared Warren 57:08
Congratulations you’re alive and breathing. Welcome to being human. Yeah, so that’s all part of the process. Totally normal. Yeah, keeping with it is what we do. Just make it work.
Dr. Melissa Smith 57:21
Yeah. That’s great. Yeah, I know, I often tell clients, you know, commit, commit to 10 minutes every day. And usually I say at least 10 minutes. Because what I, what I have found with with people, and certainly with myself is five minutes will just amp you. Like, it’s not like enough time to kind of ride that wave. That where it settles a little bit. Yeah. So like, at least 10 minutes every day. And usually that can kind of get them get them settled a little bit. But why don’t why don’t you talk to us about some some good resources for Yeah, you know, mindfulness or meditation.
Dr. Jared Warren 58:07
Yeah, there are a lot of great resources out there. That’s the good news. Yeah. There’s no better time versus, and so kind of deciding where to start. So first thing I’ll mention, because I’m developing these resources to help people know where to start. So there’s this website. It’s my best self 101 dot org. And you’ll see on there there’s a tab for modules, there’s a mindfulness module. And people can work through that as a resource. in that module, there’s a list of resources at the end that has the best mobile apps and, and videos and podcasts and other resources to help people get into it. I think, you know, as part of that, a lot of people find it helpful to have a mobile app like headspace or insight timer, or something that provides a little bit of structure. I mentioned the courses that I’m working on that will also provide that same structure for a person. Yeah, kind of day one, day two, day three, do this. with the, with the support that helps a person Yeah, get better at that.
Dr. Melissa Smith 59:23
Yeah. And I would say for people just getting started having some structure can really, really help. Yeah, so yeah, that’s a good, good thing to consider.
Dr. Jared Warren 59:33
And I think that commitment to like, you know, give it give it a month to start with, you know, if you’re using the headspace app, or one of these other resources. I think they’re good at you know, building up but so give it give it some time. And I’d say bring some self compassion to the process. Because like, there’s going to be days that you get to the end of the day, like, Oh, I didn’t I didn’t do any practice today. And you beat yourself up, and then it’s harder to do it the next day, even if you just have to sit on the edge of your bed and take three deep breaths and say, well, that’s gonna be it for today. That’s better than nothing but consistency. You know, it’s better to try 10 minutes, you know, four times a week, then try to do it once a week for an hour. on a weekend. That would be hard. Really hard. Yeah, yeah. Probably just unproductive. So yeah, I think you can kind of manage the expectations and give it time.
Dr. Melissa Smith 1:00:32
Okay, that’s great. So we will have the link to jarrods resource. And then it sounds like Jared has lots of really great resources, from apps to other resources, certainly his course, which I would strongly recommend. Because definitely, whether you’re new to mindfulness practice, or you just even want to take your mindfulness practice to the next level, I think that structure can be really helpful. Especially you know, when, when it comes to when it comes to, you know, setting or strengthening a good habit, consistency is kind of the name of the game. So I’m always a fan of structure. So make sure to head on over to my website to check out the show notes. The show notes will link to all Jared’s information, and it will have all of the resources for this episode. And that’s at www.drmelissasmith.com/episode-16. And one more time. That’s www.drmelissasmith.com/episode-16. So before I before I mentioned things, one, one last time, I just wanted to also mention that with our clinic Balance Health and Healing. So Jared, did a six week course back in January on mindfulness, and that was a great course, kind of a face to face course for people. And then he will also be doing another course beginning on September 3, right, and it’s going to be an eight week course. And so why don’t you tell us a little bit about that. And then tell us a little bit more about the online course that you’re launching in September. So both of those. So if you’re local to, you know, Utah, that the course at bounce health and healing might be a great option. But then also tell us about the online course.
Dr. Jared Warren 1:02:47
Yeah. So the in person course, I think it’s going to be helpful, both for people that are new to mindfulness. But even if you’ve had some experience with it, our focus is going to be on mindfulness practices, as they relate to cultivating resilience. And we all need that everyone needs that. And so some of we’ve mentioned today together, you know, practices that help us, you know, manage difficult thoughts and emotions. How do you build that strength to be able to handle stressors as they come up in life, and a lot of the practical applications of mindfulness kind of for daily living. And, and we we do that we do the practice together some of its instruction, but then, you know, guided practices together. And the support, I think that happens in that small group is just really valuable. And the troubleshooting that we can do together to make refinements for the inevitable, hard things that come up and work through that. I think those eight weeks will just be really helpful for building those resources. Yeah. And then next month, so I mentioned that research study on self compassion, we’re just wrapping up. And people have been going through kind of a beta version of this course, where they learn self compassion practices. Mindfulness is a big part of that. And again, that’s just kind of learning to be kind to ourselves learning to tame that inner critic that’s usually over active for most of us how to notice when that’s happening, because that’s the trouble too is we often don’t notice we aren’t aware of that internal critic that can kind of get us on a downward spiral. We just assume all that’s coming from ourselves and can be discouraging. So building those resources for self compassion. Next month. I’m launching that as an online course that anyone could take. And you can you can see some of the reason Sources we’ve used for that beta course already on the My best self, one oh one website, www.mybestself101.org You can go to self compassion, and sign up for our email list if you want to get notified when that launches. And I think it would work well to have a nice discount for people that are coming through, for your podcast listeners. Okay, so getting on that email list, and having that opportunity to get that discount may also be helpful.
Dr. Melissa Smith 1:05:34
Yeah, it’s Yeah, I think it’s going to be a great resource. And, you know, I think the the cool thing is, you know, there are a lot of E courses out there. But this guy really knows what he’s talking about. And it’s based on really extensive research. And it’s, it’s going to be a great, it’s going to be a great course, I’ve been able to preview a little bit of it. And so if you’re just getting going on mindfulness, or you want to kind of take your practice to the next level, definitely check it out. So again, you can find all of the links to both Jared’s online course, the Balance Health and Healing face to face course that will be starting in September. You can also check out some of his great photography at my website, www.drmelissasmith.com/episode-16 so you can find all those resources there. It’s been so great to have you. Thanks so much for sharing some of your passion and expertise with us. So I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Remember love and work, work and love. That’s all there is. Until next time, take good care.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai