Ask Yourself These 3 Questions -- Reduce Holiday Stress through Mindfulness

“Wander into the center of the circle of wonder.” This was a suggestion by Hongzhi Zhengjue, a Zen teacher in the 1100s. Consider how perfect this is for the holidays. Our minds wander a lot. The holidays are about wonderment and joy. But we are often so far off-track from this and wandering without awareness, we can’t enjoy the wonder of the holidays and without getting mired in habit and negativity.

What are your top priorities of the holidays? Often people will say food, family, quality time, shopping for presents, parties, and juggling many priorities.

What are the values of the holidays? Perhaps these resonate with you: love, appreciation, time with loved ones, generosity, belief, laughter, pleasure.

But what gets in the way of living these values? Stress, over-juggling, materialism and consumerism, trying to please others out of guilt, decorations and food to “perfection,” and focusing on the above priorities without being present, grateful, or recognizing your choices.

So if you find yourself feeling off-track these holidays, or feeling overwhelmed with resentment, frustration, guilt, judgment, or sadness, use these three questions to guide you back on course:

  1. Am I present and aware in this moment? (And do I have compassion for myself and others in this moment?)
  2. Am I grateful for myself and others? (And if I’m writing this down, or sharing verbally with others, am I including details about WHY I’m grateful and WHAT it means to me?)
  3. Am I making healthy choices? (Consider whether you’re realizing and owning that you’re making decisions, and consider if those choices are in your highest interest.)

I suggest writing these three questions down on sticky notes and posting them in places that will break you from your automatic patterns, and remind you that you can do things differently if you’d like. Being present in any moment helps us observe more accurately what’s actually happening, versus being on automatic pilot and reactive. Wonder and awe live in the spontaneity of a moment. So take a few deep breaths, observe with gratitude your surroundings, and make a choice to nurture and love yourself through wonder.

~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, San Diego Sexuality Speaker, Sexologist, Sex & Mindfulness Speaker

(The lovely image was borrowed from this site.)

Feminist Film Making for Women's Health & Sexual Awareness: #140

Does the media help or harm awareness around women's sexual health? Both! Dr. Jenn interviews feminist filmmaker, Echo Zen, about media depictions of women's sexual health. Bonus: Fun movie clips! (

What is the LEAST popular day of the year for viewing pornography?

Hathor Aphrodisia's Lubricant Lickeurs (Coconut Orange - yum!)

~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, San Diego, CA -- Sex Therapist, Marriage Counselor, Sexologist, College Sexual Health Speaker

Did You Miss the Moonwalking Bear? How Expectations Create Our Reality

(This essay is from my January 2012 Den Newsletter. To see the entire newsletter, click e-newsletter.)

Have you ever watched the video with 8 people passing a basketball, where you're instructed to count the number of passes for the team in white? When your focus is on counting passes, you completely miss a bear who moonwalks through the center of the drill. When you watch again to see the bear, it seems impossible that you missed it the first time. But we often don't see what is right in front of us.

When we expect to see something, our mind will focus on what we expect to see. If we don't expect to perceive something, we could very well miss it. This power of expectation and focus allows us to efficiently use our brains, but this efficiency often sets us on automatic pilot. Automatic pilot means we could miss change or difference.

I have witnessed this happen in my private practice. I've sat with a couple in a session, and observed them bantering about a sensitive, hot topic. At one point, the husband looked at me and exclaimed, "See? She's doing it again! She was just trying to control me." I sat in front of them perplexed and honestly replied, "I don't see it." He expected to see a certain kind of behavior, and therefore he perceived it that way. Since I did not have expectation or emotional investment, I was aware of a range of nuanced emotions.

As well, I've sat with a dating couple in a similar circumstance, when the girlfriend turned to me and exploded, "He doesn't care about me - he just said it!" I gently shook my head and said, "That's not what I heard him say. I actually heard him indicate the opposite." Often the individual is quiet and knows what I'm talking about, but isn't sure how to shift their expectations.

In this new year, I suggest a commitment to stop looking for the pain and start looking for the positive. If you look for the love, kindness, and affection, you just might find more than you knew was there. Be open to shifting your perspective to see what
truly IS there. It might surprise you, like a dancing bear :)

~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, San Diego, CA -- Sex Therapy, Marriage Counseling, College Sexual Health Speaker

(Fun brain image from: