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Paige Baggett-Riggins, a self-proclaimed "Information Junkie," is addicted to the exploration of all modalities that improve our mind, body and spirit. She relies on a daily mindfulness practice to control her "speed eating" habit and the constant urge to add more to her ever increasing book "situation."

Are You Making Mindful Decisions?

Making Mindful Decisions

“We will all continue to be put in situations where we have to make challenging and important decisions. We should choose to celebrate it as an opportunity to learn, grow and evolve into the person we aspire to become”

We make hundreds of decisions a day. Some are seemingly small and insignificant, while others can be life-changing. How can we know we are making the best mindful decisions?

Michelle Maidenberg

6 Tips For Making BEST Mindful Decisions

Wouldn’t it be nice if making mindful decisions were as easy as deciding what fruit we want to eat on a given day? Most decisions that we make aren’t black and white and leave us with strong, powerful and at times uncomfortable emotions.

We are all constantly making important decisions. Patients I work with Making Mindful Decisions about whether to file for divorce, what colleges to apply to, and whether or not to leave or stay at their current jobs. As a working mother, I am constantly making mindful decisions that leave me with deeply negative and often disappointed and regretful feelings.

The hardest decision that I ever remember making was the decision to break off my engagement to a person I was deeply in love with and dated for six years. My heart was pulling me in many different directions and all my opposing thoughts could be rationalized. I was left wondering why I wanted to break off a relationship with someone I loved, cared about, and wanted to be with.

My core values of family, loyalty, love, compassion, security/reliability, and perseverance were directly in opposition with my other core values surrounding self-preservation, personal growth, self-respect/integrity, consistency, responsibility, ambition, and education. I expected that in order to make the “right” decision I needed to feel fully confident in the position I was choosing to take and that all my feelings needed to be aligned with that position. I learned that making the decision was not contingent upon whether or not I was feeling “okay” with it.

I had the responsibility to fully evaluate my alternative choices and thoughtfully decide that under my set of circumstances, I was making the best Making Mindful Decisions for me and which would inevitably allow me to be my best me. I had no choice but to confront the array of lingering feelings that were naturally associated with loss and transition. It was pain that I was fully expecting and chose to take on, for the betterment of my future and who I chose to evolve into.

Most individuals of varied age groups that I work with report that it is often difficult for them to make decisions because they have to give up a degree of control (an attribute of our humanness) and are in fear of making a poor decision and being deemed or reinforced that they are a failure (there are failed decisions, not failed individuals), and are stressed because of the thinking that the decision will have negative rippling/residual effects that they will not be able to reconcile (most often it is not the case even though our mind catastrophizes and convinces us it is).

There is a good reason for concern and discomfort. There are rarely decisions made that are without residual feelings of uncertainty, guilt, and regret. Challenging decisions generally come up because there are two core values underlining the decisions that are in opposition to one another. The responsibility lies in our identifying values, effective problem solving, and balancing out the emotional and intellectual variables.

When challenging decision making comes up, consider:

(1) That rather than thinking about it dichotomously or as a right or wrong decision, consider what the “best” decision is under the circumstances. Thinking about it in absolutes evokes fear and anxiety. Most people prolong making a decision or experience decision making as dreaded because they fear the “devastating” consequences attached to a “wrong”, “failed” and “bad” decision. All decisions have a redeeming value and could be an impetus for learning, growing, and reconsideration. Few if any decisions lead to dire consequences even though our mind tells us to believe it is so.

(2) Break down the decision by the core values that are operating for you so that you can see why that position is so meaningful to you. You can use this while helping someone else to work through a challenge or as a parent you can use this with your children to teach them to effectively problem solve and identify the values that will drive their behaviors. This is a valuable lesson to obtain early in life.

(3) There is pain and discomfort in values and values in pain and discomfort. Your values are your guiding principles and represent who you are and what is meaningful to you. They guide your actions. There are deep emotions attached to these values and when you feel that they are being compromised you are bound to be uncomfortable.

Ask yourself, would you truly want to be “okay” when these get challenged (e.g., if you see someone cutting a line that you have been waiting on, you become enraged because it rubs against your value of fairness and justice, of course, you wouldn’t want to be okay with their unjust behavior, but you also have the choice whether to physically accost the person because of their behavior or assertively and respectfully ask them to move to the end of the line).

(4) Thoughtfully problem solve and balance out both the emotional and intellectual variables. Some of us are more emotionally driven and some of us are more intellectually driven. Make an effort to counterbalance in the direction you tend to be less drawn to.

(5) Make attempts to expand the way you look at things and ask yourself, “What else can I consider?” or “Is there anything else here that I’m not fully considering?” We sometimes get stuck on our own values and principles without considering those of others. We often need to make an effort to be open and expansive.

(6) In order to fully process your decision and problem solve, consider trying this exercise. Draw a square with four quadrants. List what the advantages and disadvantages are for each of the quadrants. Go quadrant by quadrant starting from left to right first concentrating on the top and then making your way to the bottom. After all four are complete, stipulate on a scale from 1-5 how important each item on each quadrant is for you.
Add up the numbers on the diagonal quadrants (e.g., advantages of changing jobs and disadvantages of changing jobs versus advantages of not changing jobs and disadvantages of not changing jobs).

Compare the two sets of numbers and discuss which was greater. If the numbers are close think about why you are so split. For both positions, contemplate whether values would be able to be maintained if you remained in that situation. Also, go back to considering which values are more prominent in this circumstance and what decision will allow you to be your best you.

Traditional problem-solving methods include defining the decision, analyzing it, developing alternatives, selecting the best solution, implementing the solution, analyzing the results, and learning from them. By identifying your core values and processing and problem-solving them, you can make the “best” decisions but it may not be free of emotional discomfort. Making decisions can be challenging without the residual struggle and dread attached to it.

It’s been 21 years since I made the decision which I spoke about. There is still an emotionally attached to it. No regret, but contemplation and a bit of nostalgic sadness. I learned so much from that experience and appreciate that I had the opportunity to “fail.” I have gained a clearer understanding of what my values are with the awareness that they may evolve and change over time. It has to lead me in the direction of where I had wanted to go and who I became.

We will all continue to be put in situations where we have to make challenging and important decisions. We should choose to celebrate it as an opportunity to learn, grow and evolve into the person we aspire to become.

Want To Lose Weight? Open Your Heart To Mindful Eating

I’m a self-proclaimed, world-class “speed eater”- a habit I’m not proud of and I’m working on it. When it comes to weight loss. . .well, let’s just say the speed at which I eat does little for my waistline, and it’s not only how fast I eat – it’s the how, when, and where. If you want to go from mindless to mindful, this article is a great reminder of how important it is to press the “pause” button. Remember, it’s not a matter of self-will, it’s a matter of self-compassion!

Open your heart to mindful eating

Strategies that cultivate self-awareness and compassion may help you lose weight and keep it off.

Image: © Dean Mitchell/Getty Images

Of all the recommendations for preventing heart disease, maintaining a healthy weight tops the list. Excess weight can raise your blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol values, all of which harm the heart. But with about one in three Americans now overweight or obese, weight loss clearly remains a stubbornly elusive goal for many people.

One strategy that’s gained traction in recent years is to focus less on what you eat and more on how and why you eat. How? Practicing mindfulness, which teaches you to focus on the present moment, while peacefully acknowledging and accepting your feelings and thoughts and the sensations in your body. Granted, that may sound a bit touchy-feely. But a review of a dozen studies, published in the March 2018 Current Obesity Reports, concluded that there is strong support for including mindful eating practices in weight management programs.

Why mindfulness matters

One of the main benefits of mindfulness approaches for weight loss is to help people recognize emotional eating, says mindfulness expert Dr. Ronald D. Siegel, assistant professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School. “Very few of us eat solely based on hunger cues. We also eat to soothe anxiety, sadness, or irritation,” he says. That’s a recipe for mindless eating: you’re operating on automatic pilot, without paying attention to how you really feel, emotionally or physically.

Mindfulness practices help you notice these common patterns, which are similar to what happens with many types of addiction, says Dr. Siegel. Most human behaviors are based on conditioned patterns of seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. Those behaviors we refer to as addictions have good short-term consequences (the pleasure of eating a piece of chocolate cake) but bad long-term consequences (becoming overweight).

Notice your cravings

People with addictive behaviors are prone to what addiction expert G. Alan Marlatt called the abstinence violation effect. For example, you might have a plan to eat healthfully, but then you see a chocolate cake. “You break down and eat a piece, but then feel so horrible about your lack of self-control that you feel a desperate need to self-soothe and end up eating the rest of the cake,” says Dr. Siegel.

Once you become aware of these patterns, the next step is finding a way to cope with cravings. Simply avoiding tempting foods is difficult, because tasty treats are widely available nearly everywhere you go. Mindfulness can help you notice the craving and recognize that you can deal with the discomfort, which may be accentuated by unhappy emotions. By turning your attention to those feelings and practicing self-awareness, you can see that the feelings come and go. “Urges and cravings come in waves, and we can ride them out,” says Dr. Siegel.

Self-acceptance and defusion

Another aspect of mindfulness training is self-acceptance. If you do give in to a craving, forgive yourself and move on. “None of us is perfect you don’t have to torture yourself,” Dr. Siegel says. Four of the 12 studies in the recent review article focused on acceptance-based behavior training, which relies on mindfulness strategies to identify emotions rather than avoid them.

In one small study of people with heart disease, participants were encouraged to recognize that eating healthfully and exercising is really challenging and that pretending that it doesn’t just make it all the more distressing. Instead, they were taught a practice called defusion, in which you distance yourself from unhelpful thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. This helped them tolerate the distress of trying to make heart-healthy behavior changes. Participants gave high marks to the program and made positive changes in their diet and exercise habits.

Among the other promising strategies noted in the review were various types of mindfulness meditation, such as an eating-focused practice in which people were taught to acknowledge their hunger levels, emotions, thoughts, motivations, and eating environment with acceptance but without judgment. The practice was most effective when combined with self-compassion, which involved repeating phrases of goodwill and benevolence for oneself and others.

Getting started: Mindfulness training

If you’re trying to lose weight and struggling with mindless eating, you can get started with some simple tips (see “How to practice mindful eating”). The Center for Mindful Eating ( has more in-depth information, including free mindful eating meditations, newsletters, webinars, and teleconferences. You may be able to find in-person coaching as well, as growing numbers of nutritionists and programs ranging from spiritual retreat centers to hospitals and medical centers offer instruction in the technique.

How to practice mindful eating

Eating while you’re busy doing other things watching TV, scrolling through your email, or reading the newspaper robs you of the chance to enjoy your food fully. You may not feel satisfied and simply keep eating, even if you’re not actually hungry.

Here are some tips for eating more mindfully:

    • Sit in a pleasant, calm environment with no distractions, with the exception of your meal companions.

    • Ponder what it took to produce your meal, from the sun’s rays to the farmer to the grocer to the cook.

    • Try eating with your non-dominant hand; if you’re a righty, hold your fork in your left hand when lifting food to your mouth.

    • Set a timer for 20 minutes and pace yourself so you spend at least that much time eating.

    • Put your utensil down between bites.

    • Take small bites and chew them well, noticing the different flavors and textures of each mouthful.

  • Before you help yourself to seconds or dessert, pause and take time to consider whether you’re actually hungry.

Harvard Health 

Want More Peace? Teach Yourself, Don’t Wreck Yourself!

With so many ways to interact with our world, why do we often feel isolated and uneasy? We get anxious when people don’t respond to our texts right away. We see a post on social media and suddenly we’re lamenting what’s missing in our life.  Just as the comparison is “the thief of joy” our personal tech devices might just be today’s “thief of health.” Try following these simple guidelines to make peace with your tech. Your mind and body will thank you.

Teach Yourself, Don’t Wreck Yourself!

By Mark BertinMay 17, 2018

Once upon a time, technology served to increase human efficiency and accuracy. Now, between everything we have to attend to on our devices and the countless ways they grab attention, it sometimes feels like our lives aren’t enhanced as much as unsettled by personal devices. When we let technology run rampant, our mental and physical health may suffer.

The Tech Effect

It starts with child development. Studies show that under-monitored screen time potentially disrupts attention, behavior, language, and academics. For teens and adults, smartphones ping and buzz all day and night. Research suggests that being reachable 24/7 escalates stress, interrupts social interaction, and impacts productivity. One study showed that the mere presence of phones visible on the table disrupts conversation.

Social media, for all its potential benefits, has been linked to decreased well-being, increased depression, and escalated jealousy. The ongoing study Monitoring the Future of Teens showed that teens spending more time on screens are more likely to be unhappy than those spending less. Even Facebook and Apple have conceded that social media affects at least some people for the worse.

When it comes to physical health, studies show teenagers today have become as sedentary as the average 60-year-old. Increased screen time has been linked to obesity, using a device (or television) near bedtime to poor sleep. One study correlated increased screen hours with odds of dying young. Strange as that seems, it’s possible that upping your screen time impacts other lifestyle factors, like a healthy diet and exercise, that contribute to a long and healthy life.

It’s Workable

These effects are not directly caused by our gadgets, of course. They reflect how we live, starting with the expectation of constant connection. It’s also our often-unconscious choices about which activities screens replace, their potential to distract from productivity and face-to-face communication, the emotional influence of social media, and more.

It’s important to stay connected through work or socially, but instead of “batching” time online, we interrupt ourselves repeatedly all day. That undermines efficiency and disrupts our downtime. And, unlike with previous innovations (such as, say, the wheel), screen usage is manipulated  by-products and games designed to hook us.

Mindfulness helps us choose how we live with technology. We can elect to remain available for what’s urgent, connect with friends, entertain ourselves…and also value disconnecting for a bit.

Take Stock

Try using a daily calendar and fill in everything you value: time for sleep, work, or school, homework, reading for pleasure, exercise, being outdoors, after-school activities or hobbies, friends, and quiet time. Whatever time is left is the maximum available for a screen.

Another trick is to ask yourself: What percentage of my downtime goes to a screen? While technology seems like the ideal fill-in for daydreaming and boredom, often it is in these idle moments that creativity arises. Apps like “Moment” and “Quality Time” allow us to self-monitor time online.

Set Boundaries

When you’re with other people, including at mealtimes, put away your device. Avoid “phubbing”— dissing strangers by making no eye contact while on your phone. Set personal and family guidelines for situations that are appropriate for texting, games, and watching TV.

Avoid temptation by turning off any unneeded notifications on your devices. When the phone rings or vibrates, practice taking a breath before deciding if it needs immediate attention or if it can wait.

Mindfulness involves being aware of our habits. Catch yourself often, notice how you’re living— and what’s driving your on-screen experience— and then engage in active decision-making.

Phone screen

Intentional Phone Practice

How can we use our phones with more intention? We can start to notice when we’re checking them compulsively, out of FOMO (fear of missing out), or comparing our life to social media’s polished but unreal images. Try this mindful tech practice to make your phone a healthier part of everyday life.

    • Before touching your phone, catch yourself. Each time it rings, pings, or vibrates, first gather your attention. Is it time to check it right now or could it wait? Take a few breaths, focusing on the air moving near your nose and mouth. Then decide what to do next.
    • If you start mindlessly plugging in, catch yourself. How does your body feel, and your facial expression and posture? (A hunched thumb-typing stance may adversely affect your mood.) What do you notice emotionally, and how is it influenced by whatever you’re looking at? Where are your thoughts? Past or future? Comparing and consuming, or engaged and balanced?
  • After time on your phone, catch yourself once more. Take a breath or two. Note whatever is going on and who is around you. At this moment, you can reconnect to real life, in real-time.
This article appeared in the April 2018 issue of Mindful magazine

Manage Your Attention, Not Your Time

Manage Your Attention

With so many stimuli competing for attention, any hope for making it through the day without our brains feeling like scrambled eggs rests on being more conscious of how you parse attention over specific tasks. Here are three ways to keep your focus flowing.

If there is any one ‘secret’ to effectiveness, it is concentration.
-Peter F. Drucker, management philosopher

“At the end of the day, my brain feels like scrambled eggs!” admitted Phil, an attorney at whose firm I teach. He, like many, was living out the effects of what it means to not prioritize attention in the workday. When distractions abound how do you find focus to get something done?

Make Attention a Priority

My previous post explored what attention is and why it’s important to both quality of life and fundamental effectiveness. Attention is the basic resource or energy you have to invest in your experience. You are what you attend to. It’s that simple.

Let’s go “Big Picture” for a moment. Managing attention has not been on our radar screens because until recently most of us took it for granted. Education has largely emphasized skills for thinking and underemphasized, or ignored altogether, the skills of attending, seeing, and perceiving (let alone feeling). Look at what gets cut from school budgets when times are tough: Arts, sports, and music are the domains that cultivate perception, focus, and their relationship to performance. For good or for ill, we are an “I think therefore I am” culture. Given that, it’s easy to see how even the so-called “well-educated” can overlook attention.

A New Way to Think about What “Well-Educated” Means

Management philosopher Peter F. Drucker understood that going forward truly educated (and effective) people “will need trained perception fully as much as analysis.” In a quickly-changing world, effective people will need to clearly see as much as clearly think. The starting point of this is managing attention and focus. So many stimuli compete for attention, any hope for effectiveness rests on being more conscious of how you use it alone and together with others.

This series of posts intends to create the talking points for you to have a conversation with those you work and live with to make a priority around attention. The more you do that, the better able you will be to stay true to your goals, perform toward your best, and engage the world in a meaningful way.

So many stimuli compete for attention, any hope for effectiveness rests on being more conscious of how you use it alone and together with others.

1. Manage Attention Not Time

People tend to think managing time forms the foundation for able action. Even Drucker thought, “Time is an executive’s scarcest and most precious resource.” However, I believe this is a misperception. Who actually can manage time? Can you make the future come faster or return to the past? Unless you’re a sci-fi hero, no. What people actually do in the flow of time is manage attention.

For example, Phil may block off several hours to work on a case, but if he spends those hours obsessing over baseball stats, we say he mismanaged his time. In reality, his attention wasn’t where it needed to be. No one manages time. We manage our attention.

This point may seem like nitpicking, but I believe it is vital because it gives you a lever you can actually pull. What follows are real-life strategies developed by my students and clients that have worked for them.

2. Name Your Priorities

This sounds simple, but I’ve observed that we don’t name them frequently enough. All too often, we allow the momentum of whatever we’ve been doing to make our decisions for us. Habits are great as long as they’re serving our true intentions or a situation’s real needs. Otherwise, we wake up and go through the motions while missing the important things.

So, the first and most essential step is knowing what your intentions are. Ask yourself: “What’s vital for me to put energy on right now”?” or “Is this the best use of my energy?” These questions can help clarify what’s essential. Intentions also help to say “no” to the less important (but perhaps more urgent). Clarifying intentions brings greater direction to investing energy.

Habits are great as long as they’re serving our true intentions or a situation’s real needs. Otherwise, we wake up and go through the motions while missing the important things.
Ask yourself these questions to clarify your priorities:

What are you doing to prioritize your day and develop an action plan when you are inevitably interrupted?
What is okay to say “no” to?
How will you handle interruptions when they arise?
Do you hold an assumption that you must respond to any interruption?
Are you afraid you will be disliked/unloved/fired if you fail to respond immediately to an email?
I’ve consistently found that people have far more latitude in saying no or “later” to incoming requests than they realize.

Priorities apply both to the short- and long-term. In the moment, it means choosing where attention should focus right now. Finish this memo due tomorrow or look-up that Yoda quote you can’t quite recall?

In the long run, where we put our attention is central to a sense of meaning and purpose. Is Phil’s diversion into baseball stats and not writing law briefs a sign that maybe he’s bored with being a lawyer? Is there something else he’d rather be doing?

In the long run, where we put our attention is central to a sense of meaning and purpose.

3. Conduct an Attention Audit to Improve Focus

Knowing where attention should go isn’t going to help if you can’t stay there. Distractions destroy focused attention. While I’m not convinced it’s possible to entirely remove them, it is possible to make great strides in creating an environment that promotes and protects attention.

Look at your environment and what is there to support focus or hinder it. Evelyn, a frustrated marketing executive, looked at her workspace through the lens of attention. She immediately noticed that the office copy machine was placed outside her door. The dots connected. She was frustrated because while waiting for their copies, her well-intentioned colleagues would stick their head in her door and chat. This happened several times an hour and she could rarely find focused flow. Eureka! A phone call to facilities to move the machine and she finally enjoyed a day of satisfying concentration.

Look around, what can you do right now? Do you work in an open office environment? What signals can you send that say, “Don’t bother me?”

These steps are only the beginning. Each of these strategies can be built out and expanded upon. The next post will dive into deeper detail.

Remember, be patient with yourself as you start this process. These essential skills take time to cultivate and explore to find the strategies that help each of us stay effective in turbulent times.


Jeremy Hunter, PhD is Founding Director of the Executive Mind Leadership Institute and Associate Professor of Practice at the Peter F. Drucker Graduate School of Management in Claremont, CA. His pioneering courses on Self-Management build on Peter Drucker’s assertion “before you can manage anyone else, you have to manage yourself first.” He has been awarded Professor of the Year five times. When in need of life-saving surgery over a dozen former students stepped forward as organ donors.

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