What is all this talk about mindfulness? Mindful eating, mindful sleeping, mindful being are some mindful activities….. What is mindfulness you ask? Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.
Have you ever driven home or to the grocery store and when you arrive you don’t remember how you actually got there? When did we become so good at multi-tasking that we now have to “focus” to be mindful? I listen to audio books on my walks so that I can finish them before I have to return it to the library….or listen to a podcast while I walk or shopping. I listen to those or talk on the phone while doing laundry or dishes. And then, at the end of the day, I feel like I had no time to actually “think” all day. Sometimes you just need quiet. Sometimes you just need to enjoy your walk and your surroundings. Or talk to your kids and be completely present at the table with no tv in the background or being interrupted by someone texting/calling you. Sometimes I just feel totally exhausted from all the stimulation by the end of the day. Sometimes you just need to BE.
This is why I try to be more mindful. When I can, and sometimes when I think I can’t, I try to enjoy my surroundings without judgement. If my house is messy, because let’s be honest…it always is, I just try to remember that I have 2 healthy children who like to play A LOT. We have a bed to sleep in at night. And I can provide what my family needs. I try to practice these mindful activities daily to help strengthen my ability to be more mindful.
Benefits of Being Mindful
“Ok but I have so much to do. Multi-tasking is my only option to getting all of the things done.” Being mindful helps to reduce stress and anxiety, enhance performance, gain awareness, reduce chronic pain, improve sleep, and lower blood pressure (daily I have my patients sit for just a couple minutes if their blood pressure is high….and almost always their blood pressure decreases…and a lot of times they are surprised that just sitting quietly for 5 minutes and taking deep breaths makes a difference in their blood pressure….imagine if they did this on a regular basis).
What are some mindful activities that I can practice to become more mindful? You can turn pretty much any activity into being mindful. I have come up with a list of the best ones and, when practiced, they will make a HUGE difference in your life.
Mindful meditation is meditation where you focus on your surroundings and your feelings with no judgement (the dog barking in the background is neither good nor bad). This meditation starts off with a few minutes of mindfulness to get you started. In this meditation you focus on all five senses at the same time. (Not as easy as it sounds).
Another type of meditation is guided meditation, like this one. It is a guided meditation with imagery.
Practice mindful eating by paying attention to your food in all phases, (buying, preparing, cooking, and eating), eating slowly with no distractions, and paying attention to hunger cues. Not only does this help you be in the moment, but it can even result in weight loss.
Mindful yoga is yoga focused on self awareness, relaxation, breathing techniques and releasing tension, tightness, and stress.
While doing your yoga practice think about these things in each pose before moving onto the next pose.
- How is your breath? Is it shallow or is it deep? Is it fast or is it slow?
- Where is sensation arising in your body?
- Are you staying present, or are you wondering when this pose will end?
- Are you staying present, or are you comparing yourself to your neighbor?
This article goes more into depth in explaining mindful yoga.
Affirmations are a positive statement that is personal to you and your goals. A simple practice of repeating these to yourself once or twice a day can literally rewire your brain. According to this article in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry, belief is more powerful than a diagnosis of a disease or treatment. Repeating affirmations twice a day, first thing in the morning and last thing before bed, will change your conscious and subconscious mind in about 26 days. Because what we think we attract, we should be thinking things that are important to us. You can make your own affirmations or search some that fit what you are wanting to achieve. A lot of affirmations begin with “I am”, but they don’t have to. They can be any quote that helps to change your beliefs. Here are a few examples of mine:
- I am worthy of my dreams and goals.
- I do not worry about the things I cannot control
- I am allowed to say “no.”
- I am capable of creating success.
- I am healthy.
- I am allowed to change my mind.
- My goals are realistic and I will reach them.
You can make your own by thinking about what your goals are and identifying your current beliefs.
Journaling is an awesome activity to encourage mindfulness. Writing in a journal requires you to slow your mind and increase focus because thoughts occur faster than you can write. It forces you to look inward at your thoughts and your beliefs. Journaling can be used to increase positive thoughts and to decrease negative thoughts. You can buy a journal or use a notebook but it needs to be hand written as opposed to typing it. Typing brings about interruptions and distractions like email and social media and doesn’t force you to slow as much as writing by hand.
Some journal prompts that you can give a try:
- What does it mean to me to be “present?”
- Some areas in my life that I need to improve are…
- Why do I want to be present with my family?
- What is your biggest challenge?
- What do I love most about my life?
- 3 qualities I love about myself are….
Some benefits of mindful journaling include, but are not limited to, boosts mood, reduces stress, improves immunity, sharpens memory, and strengthens emotional functions.
Mindful walking is also known as walking meditation. While taking a walk, pay attention to what your hear, what you see, what you smell. Also focus your attention on how your legs, feet, and arms feel with each step. Pay attention to your breathing. Did your breathing increase? Feel your lungs fully expand as you breathe.
Aside from the obvious benefits of walking, mindful walking can also decrease blood pressure and heart rate, increase wellbeing, improve mood, manage stress, and improve sleep.
Mindful breathing can be in conjunction with meditation or stand alone. Mindful breathing can increase happiness, alleviate depression, eliminate insomnia, boost creativity, speed weight loss, strengthen immunity, relieve anxiety, and increase focus. To perform mindful breathing, simply sit (or stand if you can’t sit) and close or soften your eyes. Focus on your breath as you breathe in and out. If your mind wanders, gently bring yourself back to your breath.
Mindful Heart Practice
Mindful Heart Practice I learned about in the book Stress Less, Accomplish More. There is a Guided Heart Practice on her website. To do this practice, place one hand on your heart and then place your other hand on that hand. Close your eyes and take some deep breaths. Then you listen. Just listen to what your heart has to say. If you have something you have been thinking about or something that is bothering you, ask your heart and then listen. Often we get caught up in thinking about things and listening to our heads, that we forget all about listening to our heart and what it is trying to tell us. You can make this a daily thing or do it a couple times a week. And see the difference it makes you.
In conclusion, this is definitely not an all inclusive list of mindful activities. The benefits of being mindful are proof that practicing mindfulness, even a few minutes a day, can be very beneficial both physically and mentally. There are countless ways to practice mindfulness but these are some of the ways that I practice mindfulness in my life.
What are you going to try first?
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