Mindfulness is for Everyone
We tend to think of this as a difficult or fancy process that requires you to be wearing certain clothes or thinking of nothing while sitting still on a pretty cushion. We also think that no one else could be going through or has as much to do as I do.
What is Mindfulness?
Being mindful is choosing to pay attention to the present moment without judgment. There can be stillness or activity, a sense of calm, or movement and laughter. Your mind is learning to be in this moment and even notice the wandering of thoughts. Mindfulness gives us the opportunity to be here doing whatever we are doing instead of living in the past or planning the future - neither of which is a bad thing on its own. I often reflect on the past and plan for the future. Both practices deserve credit for my success but neither should be an obsession that costs you your mental wellness.
Every time we slow down and step away from our monkey mind (yoga calls our distracted minds a monkey mind) and focus on the present we are giving ourselves the best possible chance to make the best possible choice, whatever that may be. This is a practice. We keep going. You are not trying to be perfect you are trying to be present. When you notice your mind wandering then you did it! You noticed!
Mindfulness is the Key to Stress Reduction.
I realize not everyone enjoys cooking but for a moment I want to you to imagine making a simple dinner. Even if you aren’t the chef in your house there isn’t anything actually stress inducing about chopping vegetables, making salad dressing, and plating your dinner. Listen to me, if all you’re doing in this moment is slicing the cucumbers you’re okay. Focus on your breath and the repetition. You could invite your kids or partner into the kitchen to help.
Here’s another idea. Take a walk. I live in West Florida in an area called the Nature Coast. There are incredible trails everywhere. But if your neighborhood is the best option then head out the door and consider the following.
I want you to walk and pay attention using your senses- 5 mins is a great start. What do you see, smell, hear, and feel? Even if you have walked this path a hundred times I guarantee you will find something new. As you walk, notice the world around you, a neighbor planted some new shrubs, there’s a dog barking a street over, it’s cooler today than yesterday. If thoughts of work, school or the family come to mind it’s okay. Sometimes a walk can help you problem solve or feel gratitude. If you can bring yourself back to your senses and what is around you that is what we are going for on this mindfulness experiment.
Where else could you try this exercise? Talking to your partner or kids, reading, knitting, doing laundry, yoga, or a workout? We are distracted all the time. Technology and stress being the primary culprits. Not only will being mindful and doing one thing lower your stress levels, it will make you more productive. I am not saying that productivity should be the goal. But you know that when you actually focus you get quality work done faster. Here are a few tips for creating intentional mindful moments:
1. Start with Short Activities
These moments should allow you to do one thing at a time. Try everyday for 2-5 mins and go up from there. Have a short conversation with a friend or family member. Ask your child what was the favorite thing they did today. Make a cup of tea and relax on the couch for 5 minutes.
2. I Said to Keep it Short
It's a journey. Short and consistent is better than an occasional marathon. James Clear the author of Atomic Habits An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones says keeping it short makes it easier to accomplish. Half the battle of trying new things is showing up. Showing up for 2-5 minutes is easy.
“If you can’t learn the basic skill of showing up then you have little hope of mastering the finer details.” - James Clear, author of Atomic Habits An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones
3. Remember to Breathe
I am pretty sure you are breathing right now. Let's try it with intention. Literally pay attention to the inhales and exhales for a bit. It slows down your heart rate and creates a sense of well being. Your breath has the power to regulate the nervous system and the release of hormones. Why not get out of Flight or Flight mode for a little today. You'll think you're on a staycation.
Be grateful for this moment you have set aside. Gratitude changes EVERYTHING. Research has explored the effects of gratitude on life and in relationships. A study found that individuals expressed gratitude for their partner felt more connected and were able to discuss concerns about their relationship.
5. Set a Reminder
Put the activity on your calendar or your to do list. I say that only if you intend to use your calendar or to do list. I could write a book on those two. The point is, life gets crazy. If you don't make the time, you will lose the time. And stress management is about time management.
6. Take the Time Without Distraction
Silence your phone, block your calendar, tell people you are “out” for a bit. If you don't take the time someone or something else will.
The Next Step in Stress Reduction
The next step to stress reduction is learning to handle high stress situations in the moment and creating a life that limits what stresses you most or your common triggers for stress. More on that later.
If you are looking for a bit of motivation on your mindful journey I have a free 30 Days of Mindfulness Course on my website. Join me! www.redlifeyoga.com. The goal of this is to enjoy your moments and let them become your life. As you move through the program try mindfulness in other activities such as when working on a craft project, holding a cup of tea, or chatting with a friend you haven’t seen in years.
I am focusing here on mindfulness as a way of life but if you are interested in more exploration on the topic there are some wonderful apps for meditation and mindfulness such as Calm, Waking Up, and Headspace.