Make 2015 the year of you!

As a psychiatrist, I have the honor of being with people through the ups and downs of life’s journey. I bear witness to joy, fear, anger and sorrow, and the ways in which we deal with these emotions. My patients often say to me, “I think what I need is to just stay busy. I need to distract myself.”

Distraction certainly has its role. Sometimes keeping ourselves occupied with meaningful activities like exercise, time with friends, or work, can keep us out of our head. Sometimes distraction involves not so meaningful activities such as alcohol, drugs, shopping, gambling or sex as means of disconnection.

But what would it be like to just…be? To be with ourselves just as we are? The most important and enduring relationship we will ever have, is the relationship that we have with ourselves. This relationship is based on our intimate knowing of our physical bodies, minds, spirits, and souls. If we continuously distract ourselves from ourselves, then we lose the gift of cultivating a loving relationship with the person who matters most.

Here are some ways to make 2015 a year of getting to know YOU:

  1. Slow down: For some, this can feel terrifying! We are used to maintaining a rushed pace, often to distract ourselves or for fear of missing out. Play close attention to when you are moving too fast, or are too busy. Say “No” to activities that aren’t necessary or meaningful to you. Make a conscious choice to block out time on your schedule for rest. Create buffers between activities so you are not rushing from one thing to the next.
  2. Discover quiet: The sounds of our world— people talking, music playing, kids asking, technology beeping— can be loud and intrusive. The voices in our heads— our constant commentary— can be deafening. Turn the volume down, or better yet, switch to silent mode, and allow yourself to just be. This is when you can start to become aware of the forces that operate within you. This is when you can feel the beating of your heart, or the sensation of your breath. This is when you can feel how emotions, desires, and aversions come and go like the tide of the ocean waves.
  3. Experiment with meditation: Once you feel comfortable with disconnecting, experiment with how meditation feels. Meditation is a way to observe all of yourself in a compassionate, nonjudgmental way. You might start with a brief sitting practice where you focus on the sensation of breathing for a few minutes. Don’t put pressure on yourself to meditate in a certain way. Don’t make it another project or goal that you can fail at. Meditation is called a practice for a reason. Find your entry point and build from there.
  4. Find self-compassion: Being with yourself won’t be very fun if you are always criticizing yourself. Make a pact to only use kind, loving words with yourself, the way you would with a child or a favorite friend. Practice self-care. Compassion for yourself improves wellbeing and is the foundation from which compassion for others can grow.
  5. Live mindfully: Practice immersing yourself in your experiences, in a curious, non- judgmental manner. There are several ways to experiment with mindfulness in your life. Try using all of your senses to consciously connect to a mundane experience. For example, while washing the dishes, really listen to the sound of the water, feel the slippery soapiness of the dishes, inhale the scent of dish soap. Using our senses to deepen our experience prevents us from ruminating about an argument with our boss or worrying about tomorrow’s crazy schedule. Alternatively, if you find yourself waiting, allow yourself to just wait. Try to put your phone away, and focus on your breath, or the sensory experience of being where you are. This moment is the only moment that truly exists. Mindfulness allows us to truly live that moment, deeply, intentionally.

These tools can allow 2015 to be the year where you finally prioritize YOU, and the relationship that you have with yourself. This is not selfishness! Being conscious allows you to show up for life, fully available. Knowing yourself allows you to open your heart to all that life has to offer, and to those who cross your path. This is not a race to be won or a mountain to be conquered. This is a beautiful practice, one we can start over and over with each new moment that we are blessed with.

Monisha Vasa, M.D. is a board certified General and Addiction Psychiatrist in private practice in Orange County, California. She lives in Orange County with her husband and two beloved children and two English Bulldogs. For more information, visit:

The gift of time

I often wonder about how we can best nurture our children. What will our children remember most about their childhoods? Will it be the lessons that I tried to impart to them about being a “good” person? Will it be what I formally taught them in terms of their academics and proper study habits? Will it be the outings to get ice cream after school, or taking naps together on a Sunday afternoon?

It is difficult to say sometimes what decisions and behaviors impact our children the most. On Mother’s Day, both my son and daughter brought home hand made cards from school. My son’s card said, “Happy Mother’s Day. I love you because you are a good coocer.” (“cooker” or chef). I was taken aback, as I never really thought my son was interested in food or what I made for him…but apparently, he noticed.

My daughter’s card was slightly more extensive, but included a section saying, “I love my mom because she got a toy out from the car after I left it in there by mistake.” I clearly remembered that incident. It was bedtime, and my husband was out of town. After hours of stalling and requests for water, stories and snacks, I was done. Done. My daughter was upset because she left her favorite stuffed doggie in the car, and said she wouldn’t be able to fall asleep without it.

The thought of having to go downstairs, open up the garage, unlock the car, and locate the missing toy (and all of its associated garments) was about to send me over the edge. But I paused for a moment and saw the situation from her perspective. She missed her stuffed animal and wanted it for reassurance and comfort. She had no ability to go to the car and accomplish this herself, the way she could choose her own book or go downstairs to get her own glass of water. So, I set my frustration aside, and I did it. I had no idea that weeks later, this would be her example on a Mother’s Day card of what she appreciated most about me.

I think on a moment-to-moment basis, our kids love receiving gifts, or being spoiled with treats. But when it comes down to it, they value our time and presence the most. They value time spent doing activities together, whether it’s reading, going for a walk or driving back and forth from school. But, I am not sure the choice of activity matters. For a child, I think being in the presence of an adult who loves and treasures the little person next to them, is invaluable.

I am painfully aware that spending time with me won’t always be number one on my kids’ priority list. Already, my daughter prefers to close the door to her bedroom and read alone, rather than next to me in the kitchen or family room. My son is starting to ask about sleeping over at his friend’s homes. They will grow up in front of our very eyes, so gradually that we will wake up one day and not realize when our little ones became grown, adult beings. We will wonder where the time went, and where we were when it passed us by. We will miss the requests for one more story or snack before bed.

When we speak of mindful parenting we speak of being aware of the present moment. Sometimes, when you are exhausted and have a screaming, sleep deprived, hungry child who is mid-tantrum at Target, the present moment is not so wonderful. The last thing we want to do is immerse ourselves in it. In those moments, we can be aware that being a parent is not always roses and rainbows, but that there are also moments of difficulty and sacrifice, and moments where our deepest emotional reserves become depleted.

But if we can find a sliver of gratitude, even the tiniest bit or an iota of compassion for ourselves and our children we can create a space. We can create a space to step back and observe the child in front of us, the parent within us, and all of the mixed beauty and frustration that can accompany that journey that we embark on together. We also create a space to realize that, thankfully, this moment won’t last forever…and, at the same time, tragically, this moment won’t last forever.

Dr. Monisha Vasa is a board certified General and Addiction Psychiatrist in private practice in Orange County, California. She is the author of the new non-fiction children’s book, “My Dearest One.” For more information, visit: