Mindfulness has been a popular buzzword in wellness circles even though it’s a practice that has been used for hundreds of years. Various cultures around the world embraced mindfulness techniques to deal with everyday difficulties and to help honor religious beliefs.
Using a definition from “The Mindfulness Solution”, by Ronald Siegel, M.D., mindfulness helps us observe how we interpret distress, how to let go of destructive mental habits and replace them with more useful ones.
Mindfulness is a practice of slowing down, listening to your body, taking one task at a time, unplugging, etc.
Reduces anxiety and social phobia.
Can be used with children, elderly and anyone with physical challenges.
It’s free. That’s not a typo. Yes, it’s free.
You don’t need insurance, a prescription or a specialized therapist.
Helps with personality disorders like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Useful in drug and alcohol recovery
Encourages physical activity
Increases connections with others
Based on this checklist, I’m happy to tell you that you don’t need any tools, skills or special coach to begin mindfulness practices. The book I quoted above is a user friendly manual that includes mindful practices and exercises for relationship issues, health problems, chronic pain, aging and grief, plus many more.
On a personal note, having fibromyalgia and anxiety disorder, I have to practice a form of mindfulness daily. It’s so routine that I don’t even know I’m doing it. So, what has a lack of mindfulness cost me?
- I tripped down the stairs carrying laundry because I wasn’t paying attention.
- Fibromyalgia flares have cost me time at work and missing important family events.
- Anxiety attacks in public places.
- Forgetting to check my bank accounts because I’m multi-tasking every other damn thing you can think of! Overdraft fees add up!
How can you become more mindful? Let me give you distinct examples:
- Mindful Walking: Although my friends enjoy when I Snapchat my walks with my pup, that actually disconnects me from the healing benefits of walking my dog. When I’m NOT taking pics and playing music, I focus on taking deep breaths, watching her stride, monitoring where she stops to sniff, turning my head to the sunlight & taking notice of my surroundings. Wherever you walk, be aware of how your body feels, how the sun or wind feels and what you see.
Example: I have worked with anxious clients on paying attention to their surroundings & examining them. How many white cars are passing by while you wait for the bus? What do the billboards say on your way to work? Count how many Hondas you see until you reach your destination. Wiggle your toes as you examine your surroundings. How do your toes feel as you wiggle them?
- Mindful Eating: How many people eat lunch at their desk or eat breakfast standing up in the kitchen? It’s difficult having a chaotic schedule but slowing down our meals is actually therapeutic. Some mindful practices involve eating one raisin at a time and paying close attention to all aspects of the raisin. Is it chewy? Sweet? Can you resist eating it and just rest it on your tongue? I have taught clients to use gum or Starbursts as a way to “ground” themselves into the moment. When we’re nervous, overthinking or about to enter a scary situation, an edible object can be therapeutic, reminds us to slow our breathing and moves our body’s nervous energy elsewhere. Challenge: Try eating one meal this week without any electronics, television or distractions. I encourage you to watch your breathing and posture as you eat. Sit comfortably. Take smaller bites and chew your food more. Sip your coffee or tea one day this week taking notice of the flavor, temperature and the feeling it gives your body. See what you notice.
- Kill Judgment: One of the main tenets of mindfulness involves limiting judgment on our thoughts. For example, let’s look at this sentence: “It’s hot and there’s a lot of traffic today.” Is this statement a fact or a judgment with a million feelings behind it? This introduces you to the Acceptance Theory. If you accept that it’s hot, grab an ice water before hitting traffic and play your favorite Spotify list, how has your mood adjusted? Sitting in judgmental thoughts invites low energy, grouchy attitudes and impatience. Being more accepting reduces negative thoughts and doesn’t attach you to people or outcomes (remember one of the messages behind The Four Agreements: Don’t Take Anything Personal).
Try some of these mindful techniques and see how your mood changes.
Does your breathing slow down?
What facts can you turn from judgments to plain acceptance? Start telling yourself, “Well, it is what it is.” Become more neutral towards thoughts that used to get you angry or sad.
This week I’ll be sharing some mindful exercises on my Instagram Stories! Follow my page here!