I think all counseling is life skills counseling, but I have a bit of a bias.
I have been in or around the addictions field for a long time, and I have seen people make extraordinary changes in their lives doing nothing other than AA or NA, and by doing AA or NA, I mean sometimes nothing more than going to meetings and listening or talking.
Other folks attend the meetings and read the books and take the Steps seriously.
Taking the 12 steps seriously mean nothing more than thinking about them more (and more) frequently.
We human beings can do three things, we can think, we can feel, and we can behave, and by behave I mean move our bodies.
A wise mentor, Tony Kubicki, once told me a phrase that he used with his domestic violence clients, awareness gives me choice, which I have adopted as a mission for myself, and which I teach to my clients.
If I am more aware of my thoughts, my feelings, and my behaviors, then I can make choices very quickly which help me move towards things that are important to me.
The fly in the ointment is that I change internally very fast, and I may make a decision based on my unexamined feelings, or my unexamined thoughts, which drives a behavior which changes my life.
How fast is fast?
Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi,Ph.D., author of the 1993 book, FLOW, says the central nervous system processes nonverbal audio and visual information in parallel, at the rate of 7 bits of information every 1/18th second.
By comparision, it takes me 1/10th second to blink my eyes.
Paul Ekman,Ph.D., reports that we respond, meaning I change hormones and neurotransmitters, in 1/25th second to facial expressions like contempt or disgust or love.
And Micheal Merzenich,Ph.D., creater of the Posit Science Brain Fitness program, says that Senior Drivers need to be prepared to respond to changing road conditions in 1/45th second.
So life skills counseling has got to use tools that I can access cognitively or emotionally or behaviorally in a short period of time, and those tools need to be duplicatable.
One of my AA friends turned me on to the phrase "What is the next right thing to do?", which, "along with gratitude is the attitude" really stuck with me.
Whenever I found myself feeling resentful or frightened about things I could not control, I changed the thought to one of gratitude, and I felt better.
At first, I thought the next right thing to do would be something outside my body, get a new job, buy a new car, workout, ect. but slowly it dawned on me that this life skill meant something different.
It might mean change your thoughts to change your feelings, and it did mean keep your thought on your purpose more often than not.
So I began to study contemplative traditions, and discovered things like Transcendental Meditation (TM) and Open Focus and the Focusing Technique of Eugene Gendling,Ph.D., and of course there is the 11th and 12th steps of AA, which require daily prayer and meditation and readiness to carry the message to the still suffering alchoholic.
TM utilizes a repeated mantra and sitting quietly to move an individual into a relaxed and healthy state, and Open Focus involves thinking in language which is about the volume of space, a diffuse rather than a narrow focus.
Both feel good, and both utilize the next right thought to have, which could very well be the next right thing to do in your life skills counseling, manage your attention. Notice I said manage your attention, not control it.
So the next right thing to do is manage my thinking?
Absolutely. Why not create a pattern of thinking that keeps you moving towards the things you want to do?
Actually, this kind of awareness has been around for a long time, and in our culture Napolean Hill, in THINK AND GROW RICH, written in 1937, or 1939 I believe, popularized it.
I believe that technology can help. Ever heard of neurocardiology or neurogenesis or neuroplasticity?
Probably not, because all three words describe new fields of study involving capacities of the human body we can enhance today, that no one even knew of not too many years ago.
Neurocardiology is the study of the hearts own nervous system. Did you know the heart controls its own beat? Not the brain, but the brain in the heart. The heart has a sophisticated nervous system that can learn and make decisions independently of any other brain I have, and there is now a biofeedback program available called HeartMath which allows me to train my heart to return to a very coherent beat, which has tremendous impact on my life skills counseling. HeartMath is a stress management program of exceeding quality.
I can now manage the inside of my body heart beat by heart beat on any given heart beat if I choose, once I have used the HeartMath biofeedback tool to train my heart.
My heart sends much more emotional and sensory data up to my brain than the brain sends to my heart, and if I make my heart beat coherent, then I open the higher perceptual centers in the brain for neurogenesis and neuroplasticity, which are also key components of my life skills counseling.
Are you an athlete or a student struggling with stress? Heartmath is the heart of relaxation.
We noted above that our life skills counseling needs to prepare us to react very quickly to changes in our thinking, feeling, and behavior, and we looked at the first of some new tools that can impact that awareness which gives us greater choice.
Heartmath allows me to sustain a coherent heart beat which has tremendous advantages for my stress and performance levels, and makes it possible for me to enhance two capacities of the human brain no one knew about not too long ago, neurogenesis and neuroplasticity.
Neurogenesis means I grow new brain cells, yes, new brain cells, and I can get them sent to the part of the brain which needs them the most if I do not bathe them in stress hormones or booze or free radicals or environmental toxins. Which means do your HeartMath to keep the inside or your body filled with DHEA the antiaging hormone, rather than adrenalin and cortisol.
The new brain cells need to be challenged by a novel learning experience to implant and be utilized. Novel learning experience usually means the kind of learning involved in learning a new language or a new instrument, or the kind of learning involved when I practice a computerized brain fitness program.
If you really want the low down on neurogenesis and neuroplasticity and brain fitness, check out Brainfit for Life. The best computerized brain fitness programs are Lumosity, Mind Sparke Brain Fitness Pro, which increases your IQ, and the Posit Science Brain Fitness program.
Using any of them or a combination of them will increase your neurogenesis and neuroplasticity.
And your awareness and choice for your life decisions will be enhanced. Better decisions means more of life's good stuff.
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