Athletes Take Note: Mindfulness can improve your performance

I’ve been talking a lot lately about how mindfulness can relieve daily stresses.  It is certainly beneficial and something that should be incorporated into your every day life.  However, what happens when you’re an athlete, and it’s game time?

Many athletes experience stress or anxiety during crucial moments in a game.  We’re human; that’s completely normal, but that’s not what you want to happen when you need to concentrate.  This is where mindfulness comes in to play.  There are many different ways in which mindfulness can help your athletic performance.

Today I’m going to talk about different ways athletes can use mindfulness, and I will also explain how and why they are effective.

Mindful Warmup

If you have a moment to yourself before your game starts I would highly recommend meditating.  However, I realize that many people prefer privacy when they meditate and that’s not always possible.  So, if you don’t have the chance to do a full blown meditation, I would use your  warmup as a time to be mindful.  While using your warmups, try to be in the moment and just focus on the task at hand.  This will help get you into the mindset you will need to be in for the game.  If you do any stretches beforehand try breathing into them and focus on the breath.  That can help relieve any preliminary tensions you might have.

“Get your head in the game”

I’m sure many of us are familiar with the old High School Musical song, but seriously it helps.  When you’re in the game you really should be in the present moment.  No matter the sport, focus on what you need to be doing at that moment.  Also, when you are on the bench, don’t stress about what you need to do when you get back in, and don’t dwell on any mistakes you might’ve made earlier in the game.  It’s best to just be aware of what’s happening in the game right now and cheer on your team.  There’s no sense in stressing about what’s already happened or what might’ve happened.

Leave it on the field

Whether we like the outcome of the game or not, we as people tend to be very critical of ourselves.  Again it’s just human nature.  However, it’s important to silence that inner critic.  Regardless of the mistakes you’ve made, you did the best you could.  It’s important to recognize what happened, but with mindfulness it’s also equally important to just let things be as they are.  Likewise, it’s also important to not stress about the next game; just let it happen when the time comes.  Meditations can be very helpful with both of these.  I’d personally recommend any meditation that has an emphasis on grounding.  Breathing meditations can often serve this purpose.

 

Now I also think it’s important to note that these sorts of techniques can apply to more than just athletes.  I myself have been on stage many times, and I’ve found that these techniques can also be applied to this situation.  Doing meditation or breathing exercises prior to performing can help relieve anxiety.  However, While performing sometimes I find it easier to focus on the audience’s reactions.  If I focus too hard on what I’m doing sometimes it can make me trip up.  However if I find it more difficult it usually helps to focus, but if I already know what I’m doing sometimes it’s just best to trust my gut.  However, everyone’s different so choose the strategy that makes you the most comfortable.  I’ve also found that leaving it all on the stage and letting your performance be what it is can be extremely helpful.

 

I hope all the athletes who’ve read this have found something that may help with their game anxiety.  There really are ways to be mindful for every stage of the game.  Feel free to use these strategies through a tough practice too.  Of course the stresses of being an athlete are much akin to being a performer.  So I hope performers of all sorts can also take something from this article.

Are you an athlete? Wav you tried any of these techniques? Do you have other techniques you like to use? Let me know in the comments.

If you’ve never been mindful before, make today the day you start your journey.  Remember: Everyone starts as a beginner, if they can do it then so can you!

 

Mindful Musings

A mental health journey through mindfulness

Ways to be mindful during summer

We all know that mindfulness is extremely beneficial.  We also know that in order to get the most out of it, you have to practice it daily.  This might be all fine and good in the beginning, but after doing it for so long it can get difficult.

In my own experience, I can say that this has certainly happened to me.  Last semester I was really invigorated by getting a new mindfulness app.  I was so excited to use it since it had so many series to choose from.  Each of the series lasted about a week long.  I figured it was perfect and that I’d never get bored because there were so many options.  Unfortunately after about a couple weeks, I was already bored with just using the app.  It wasn’t that I didn’t like it, but I just needed something else to keep me motivated.

Are you looking for something else too? Well this is the perfect time to do so.  Even if you’re not, summer is a great time to meditate.  So in honor of the first official day of summer, I’m going to talk about some ways in which you can incorporate mindfulness into your summer routine!

Meditate Outside

I’ve found that doing this can be so relaxing.  Just put on your favorite meditation track, and let nature be the perfect background.  You can even do an unguided meditation and just focus on being one with your surroundings.  I realize that sort of sounds cliche, but it can be very powerful!  Feel the breeze on your skin, notice the birds chirping in the distance.  Notice the brightness of the sun and how it bounces off the leaves on the trees, and just breathe in the warm fresh air.  You’ll be amazed at how calm you will feel.

Bonus: it can be a great way to get going on your tan.  Especially if you’re like me and are still pasty white in June!

Go for a walk

Walking can be a great way to clear your mind.  There are actually meditations specifically designed for walking! I’ve found that this can make you feel more grounded and make your problems seem a little bit easier to deal with.  Even if you don’t have a guided meditation, I’ve found the best technique for mindful walking is to just notice how it feels to walk.  It might sound strange, but I’d be willing to bet that you’ve never thought about it before.  This really trains you in keeping your attention focused.  Not to mention this can be a great way Even if you don’t have time to just go out on a walk, you can incorporate this into any walk you might take throughout the day.  Whether it be at the grocery store, at work, on your commute, or wherever else you might be!  All it takes is being in the moment and noticing how you’re feeling.  I’d recommend starting with just planned walking sessions in order to build the habit.  Before you know it, you’ll just start incorporating into your daily life naturally.

Make a trip to the beach

If you are able to get to one, the beach is a great place to meditate.  Why bother using nature sound effects when you have nature right in front of you?  Just lay out in the sand and listen to the waves.  This can be a good opportunity to practice a breathing focused meditation.  See if you can sync your breathing with the sound of the waves.  Don’t think too hard about it.  Just concentrate on what you hear and you may end up synching with the sound of the waves.  If counting is more your style, you can always count the breaths.  This can actually be a good way to time them as well.  Many different meditation programs use counting breaths for relieving anxiety, and what would be a better place to relieve your anxiety than at the beach?

Also, you still have the bonus of getting a great tan if that’s something you’re interested in.  (Can you tell I really want to go get a tan?)

Well those are just some of the many different ways that you can incorporate mindfulness into summer fun!  I hope I’ve inspired some of you to start practicing mindfulness, to get out of a meditation rut, or maybe even just gave you some new ideas to try.

Have you ever done any of these ideas? What do you think of them? Do you have any other summer mindfulness ideas? Let me know in the comments!

Remember: Everyone starts as a beginner, if they can do it so can you!

 

Mindful Musings

A mental health journey through mindfulness.

 

How to practice mindfulness with yoga

Today yoga is often associated with fitness.  While it’s true that yoga has many health benefits, it can also have many mental health benefits.  It’s also important to note that yoga was originally a spiritual practice.  Many people use it in combination with meditation to relax and find inner peace.

When people first hear of mindfulness they often hear about its relationship to yoga, but they might wonder: How do you go about doing it? How is it different from fitness yoga?  It can be daunting to just try and pick it up on your own.  So that’s why I’m going to give you some tips on how it works and show you how it can help with anxiety.

The first thing that’s important to point out is that there are many different types of yoga and each serve their own unique purpose.  You may have heard of some of the more aerobic types like bikram or hot yoga.  The one that will be most beneficial for mindfulness is known as Hatha.  Bonus: It’s the best type for yoga beginners according to Daily Burn, since it’s relatively low impact and just focuses on the poses and positions and maintaining correct form.

Well, that makes sense doesn’t it? Recall that mindfulness is about being in the moment, focusing, and training the mind not to wander or linger on troublesome thoughts.  What would be a better way to do this than to essentially contort our bodies into different positions and focus on maintaining correct form?

Another important component of yoga: There is a big focus on breathing! One of the most basic mindfulness techniques is to focus on the breath.  I think yoga provides an even better opportunity to do this because when your body is in different positions you can really feel the breath differently than you might when you’re just sitting or standing.

Another way that yoga is connected to mindfulness is that it allows you to practice being nonjudgmental.  Of course, we are all at different fitness levels, so when trying out these intricate poses for the first time, it can be daunting if you feel like you don’t look exactly like the video or instructor you’re learning from.  This is where mindfulness comes into play.  Mindfulness is all about letting things be as they are in the moment without judging anything, this includes yourself and your own thoughts.  Doing this while practicing yoga can help to boost self confidence! Not only will it be great to feel comfortable in your own skin, but this can also help with reducing anxiety if self criticism is a potential trigger for you.

As far as other ways mindful yoga can be used to reduce anxiety, I think it’s important to look at the more physical aspects of yoga.  Exercise releases endorphins, which are chemicals in your brain that improve your mood.  This can help tremendously with relieving your anxiety.  According to yoga teacher Jade Garratt, “[Yoga] help(s) lower stress levels, improve the quality of your sleep, and ward off anxiety.”  What makes it even better is that unlike some workouts that involve high exertion, yoga is low impact.  So even if you’ve had a long day you can still take some time out of your day to benefit both your mind and body.

In speaking of a long day, have you ever come home from a long day of classes or work and felt so tense in your shoulders and neck? I’d be willing to bet that some of that tension is due to stress.  Yoga would be the perfect solution to release some of that tension.  Garratt states that yoga is able to “unlock” tension in the body.  Many different yoga poses provide great stretches with allow for this tension release.

All of these different components come together to allow you to enter a relaxed, focused and meditative state while practicing mindful yoga.

I hope this article has helped you understand the connection between mindfulness and yoga.  I also hope you see how it can be a stress reliever and I hope I’ve inspired you to try yoga if you haven’t already done so.

Try it out and let me know what you think.  Remember: Even the most experienced people in mindfulness were once beginners, if they can do it so can you!

Mindful Musings

A mental health journey through mindfulness.

Mindful Eating: It doesn’t have to be as weird as it sounds

I’m sure most of us could at least give some sort of a guess as to what mindful eating is.  Essentially it’s all about being more aware of the processes involved with eating. Now personally I find this to be a bit awkward, but that could also be due to a previous experience.

Let me explain.  When I was taking a mindfulness class at my university, one of the classes was all about mindful eating.  I’ll be honest, when I first heard about it I was a little skeptical.  It just sounded weird to me.  During the class my teacher had us close our eyes.  We were then handed a piece of food.  We were asked to observe what we felt and what we smelled.  I knew immediately that I was holding an orange, but that’s because I don’t really care for the smell of oranges.  After a few minutes she had us take a bite with our eyes still closed.  Of course not really being a fan of oranges, I was’t thrilled when the teacher asked us to linger on how the food felt in our mouth.  Regardless I still find that notion quite odd.

Now while you might not have had quite the experience that I did, you may be slightly familiar with this idea of mindful eating, or you may have never heard of it at all.  Well, I have good news: It doesn’t have to be nearly as weird as I just made it sound.  Time Magazine came out with a special edition on mindfulness, and they gave their own insights on mindful eating, and it was completely different idea than what I was presented in my class.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m sure the method I was taught in my class may work very well for some people, and if it works for you then that’s great.  However, today I’m going to present an alternative perspective of how to tackle mindful eating, and elaborating on a few points from the Time article.

Essentially, Time talks about mindful eating in terms of “eating in the moment”.  In other words, focusing solely on the activity of eating.  This can work without using some of the sensory techniques I discussed earlier.  However, as I said before, if those techniques work for you then go for it.  Here are some of the tips mentioned in the article, and how we as beginners can incorporate these into our everyday lives.

Don’t eat where you work!

This falls in line with the whole concept of multitasking.  Studies have shown that no one can truly multitask.  Even the people who think they’re good at multitasking actually struggle with it.  When we try to kill two birds with one stone by eating while trying to get work done, we will end up not focusing on one of those things.  Most often we will end up not focusing on eating.  This can lead to eating more than you plan on eating.  I’d like to encourage as many healthy behaviors as possible, so by not multitasking you will be killing two birds with one stone for your health! So, the takeaway: Don’t eat where you work, do one then the other, each in different places.

Sit down when you eat!

Again this relates back to multitasking.  Most often when we are walking we are doing or focusing on a multitude of different things.  If we eat during that, once again it is likely that we will not pay attention to what we are eating, causing us to either overeat or not feel full.  I feel it’s also important to not that just sitting down isn’t enough.  It also means that for best results you shouldn’t be on your phone or watching TV while you eat either.  Now I know that this can be really hard for some of us (myself included), but it is possible and will be very beneficial.  The best way I’ve found to do this is to just enjoy what you’re eating. Be in the moment and just enjoy it! Don’t think about what you have to do afterwards, just enjoy your meal and take in the scenery.

Cut your plate in half!

This is something Time Magazine refers to as a “food speed bump”.  Once you eat half of the plate, you should check in and see how full you feel.  If you feel satisfied then save the rest of your food.  By stoping halfway through, you are making sure you remain in the moment and are paying attention, much like a checkpoint or speed bump on a road.  I used to do this all the time at restaurants.  The portions are so big anyway, but if you’re not paying attention you could end up overeating.  Using this speed bump can certainly prevent that.

Those were just a few of the tips mentioned in the article, but hopefully this gives you a sense of how mindful eating can actually be very simple and something you can incorporate into your daily life.

What do you think of these tips? Have any of you ever tried mindful eating?  What was your experience?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments!  Also be sure to share this with friends.  That could really make a difference in someone’s eating habits and potentially change their life.  Remember: everyone was once a beginner.

 

Mindful Musings

A mental health journey through mindfulness

What you need to understand about people who are against mindfulness.

As I’ve been online recently, I’ve noticed a couple articles that shocked me.  They degrade mindfulness as a practice.  Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying people aren’t entitled to their opinions.  I just think people need to back their opinions up with facts in order to truly sound credible.

What makes matters worse is that the sources spreading this information are some very well known sources.  Some of their information is very likely to highly influence viewers, and I just want to make sure everyone understands all sides of the issue.

Well I guess that’s enough of a disclaimer, I’d like to discuss some statements made in an article from the Washington Post.  Before I get in too deep, I’d like to say that their point made regarding mindfulness being more or less effective than antidepressants is valid.  They have done plenty of research to show that there isn’t enough evidence to make a clear correlation.  What I want everyone to keep in mind is that treatments for mental health issues should be approached in a very individualized manner.  If you prefer not taking medication, and would rather use a mindful approach, then you have every right to do so and vice versa.  The same concept applies to using both medication and mindfulness (which is what I do).  There’s nothing wrong with any of these options so long as they work for you.

Later on in the article there was a statement that I personally had a problem with.  I’d like to share it with you all, then discuss my personal take on (and rebuttal to) the statement.

“Is it the meditation itself that causes the positive effects, or is it more to do with learning to step back and become aware of our thoughts and feelings in a supportive group environment? And why does it only work for some?”

I’m going to break this statement down into parts.  Based on the beginning part of the first sentence, it seems that they are trying to claim that mindful mediation is separate from awareness.  If that’s the case then they couldn’t be more wrong.  The whole point of mindful meditation is to use the guidance to increase our awareness of our thoughts and feelings.  So I would say that both of those things are what cause the positive effects.  Another thing I want to make note of is that in this article they are discussing the effectiveness of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy.  This is essentially set up like a group mindfulness class.  So in this quote they ask if the supportive group environment is actually more effective than the mindfulness itself.  I’d like to say that this isn’t necessarily true.  There are many people who practice mindfulness alone, with or without audio guidance.  And many of them find just as much success as the ones who take classes.  Therefore I think it just depends on what works best for the individual.  Also, they ask why it only works for some.  Well, as I said before everyone is different.  Many antidepressants don’t work for everyone, so it’s only natural that the same goes for mindfulness.  Treatments for mental illness are so individualized, and I think more people need to realize and accept this.

At the end of the article they even make note that mindfulness is not very individualized, however I think this is inaccurate.  Many meditations allow you to really take it however you want.  Also, they make the claim that mindfulness can be bad because it brings anxieties to the surface, but I think one of the first steps to getting over anxiety is recognizing it.  Now, I’m not a therapist, but I have been to therapy, and a lot of my initial sessions were about uncovering the roots of my anxiety.  A lot of times this was painful, but I can confidently say that it was extremely helpful.  A lot of these sessions involved mindfulness as well.  I personally feel that bringing up what scares and upsets us is super important, and that’s exactly what mindfulness allows us to do.

There you have it folks that’s my take on this article.  Again I’m not a licensed professional.  I feel that everyone is entitled to their opinion and I’m simply sharing mine with you.

What did you think of the article? What do you think of my interpretation?  I invite you to share your opinions with me in the comments.

 

Mindful Musings

A mental health journey through mindfulness

Everyday Mindfulness or Mindfulness Everyday?

In a previous article, I discussed how to incorporate mindfulness into your day.  It’s great that we know how to do that, but I’ve found that brings on another question: Do we have to do it every day?  I’ll start off by saying yes, as hard as it can be to keep a consistent schedule, it’s really important to practice mindfulness every day.

I found another mindfulness blog that did a really clever play on words regarding this topic.  They explained that mindfulness is both every day and everyday.  This essentially means that not only should it mindfulness be practiced often, but it is also making the point that mindfulness is a common practice.  This is a really powerful message, but I think it’s also a hard one to grasp when you are just beginning your journey.

As I stated before it’s extremely important to practice mindfulness every day.  This is because in order to make the practice a habit, it needs to be repeated consistently.  According to an article in the Huffington Post, a behavior needs to be repeated for roughly two months before it becomes a habit.  Two months can feel like a really long time, and even the best of us struggle with keeping a habit like this consistent.

I’ve found that setting alarms can be really helpful with keeping a habit like this.  Some mindfulness apps even have built in reminders where you can choose the time when it goes off every day.  It can also help to pick a certain time of day to practice mindfulness, because eventually you will begin to associate that time with mindfulness.  Choosing one of the times I mentioned in the previous article can really help.  Another important thing to keep in mind is that there will be days when you slip up and that’s perfectly okay.  The important thing is to just get right back into your routine, and before you know it, it will become a habit.

The part of the other mindfulness blog that I found particularly intriguing was the concept that mindfulness is everyday, or as the other blog likes to put it “nothing special”.  What they’re saying is true, it’s not like you have to have a certain special qualification to be good at mindfulness.  No fancy degrees, no expensive equipment to buy; you just need to be yourself, and be willing to learn more about yourself.

This can be harder for beginners to grasp than you might think.  Many people, myself included, have felt like they have to rely on special “signs from the universe” in order to understand mindfulness.  For example, I remember when I first tried meditating I expected to feel like a changed person after I was done.  Of course, I didn’t notice any big change right away, but that’s totally normal.  It’s really just an everyday action.  It’s just like working out.  After you’re first work out do you have a six pack? Of course not! Mindfulness is the same way.  You won’t notice a change right away, but give it some time and you’ll start to notice the little things.  I can speak from experience and say that now whenever I meditate I really do notice a difference.  There have been days where I’ve been extremely stressed and meditation has helped me return my heart rate and breathing to normal.  Now don’t get me wrong everyone’s different, but it’s definitely true that everyone can reap some form of positive benefit through mindfulness.

All in all, I’ve discovered that these ideas really go hand in hand.  Mindfulness is an everyday practice for everyone.  However, just because it’s an everyday practice, that doesn’t mean you should expect to see change right away.  That’s why mindfulness needs to be practiced every day in order to form the habit of being mindful.  Once that habit is built then you may begin to notice some really positive changes in your life.

I hope you have enjoyed this interpretation of mindfulness, and I hope it has helped you better understand mindfulness and the importance of practicing it every day!  Be sure to share this article with your friends so that they can be inspired to practice everyday mindfulness every day!

What did you think of this article? Have you struggled with any of these issues before? Any questions? Any suggestions? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

 

Mindful Musings

A mental health journey through mindfulness

Comparison of Mindfulness Apps

In my past posts you’ve probably noticed I’ve mentioned that I used apps from time to time.  While using apps is not the only way to practice mindfulness, it can be very helpful for beginners.  They allow you to learn the basic techniques of mindfulness.  What’s even better is that a lot of these apps (or at least some of the features of these apps) can be used for free.

Now sure using apps is all fine and good, but then your next question arises: Which one do you get?

It’s true there are many different options to choose from.  I have tried many of these different options, and each has their own unique qualities to offer.  Obviously trying out each of these apps can be a lot of work, and many of them just may not be the right one for you.  So to save you the trouble of having to try out all these apps, I’ve already done so and took the time to outline the features of each of these apps.  It’s important to note that while I will give my personal opinion, I will also do my best to be unbiased while explaining the details of these apps.

 

Centered

This is a simple app but it’s really great if you’re also into fitness.  The idea of the app is to balance your physical well being with your mental well being.  The app tracks your steps everyday for the physical health portion.  For the mental health portion, it provides a short list of meditations that you can choose from.  This app also allows you to track your mood throughout the day.  You can also set goals for daily steps and weekly meditation minutes.  The one thing thats kind of cool about this app is that the mental and physical portions are each represented by two circles.  The closer you are to meeting your goals the more the circles will overlap.  The goal is to get the circles to completely overlap and be “centered”.  This is a great app if you’re a goal oriented person and like seeing those goals come to life.  This app even has a watch app which makes it even easier to track your steps.

The best part of this app? All the content is completely free!

Simple Habit

This app is divided into different sections, and each can be used for a different purpose.  The section the app opens with is titled “Series.”  It gives suggestions of series of guided meditations that can be used for a variety of purposes.  There are a variety of meditations with topics ranging from morning, to work breaks, to students, to improving sleep.  The next section is titled “on the go.”  This is probably my favorite part of this app.  In this section, the app asks, “What are you doing?”  It gives you a list of options including: morning, commute, at work, tough day, sleep, and SOS.  From here it asks more specific questions about your situation to come up with a single meditation that fits your situation.  You can also choose how long you want the meditation to be.  There is also another section called “teachers” where you can search for meditations based on who’s guiding you.  The app also keeps track of your sessions and allows you to challenge your friends to be mindful as well.

Some of the meditations are only available with the pro subscription, however a lot of the content is available for free.

 

Stop, Breathe & Think

This is actually the first mindfulness app that I used.  This one really focuses on being aware of how you’re feeling.  Before doing a meditation, it has you dim the screen for ten-seconds and think about how you’re feeling.  Then you are asked how you are feeling both physically and mentally, and it asks you to select up to five emotions to describe how you’re feeling.  From there it selects specific meditations to fit your needs.  This app also offers a tutorial on how to meditate so I would certainly recommend it for beginners.  Of course, if you have a favorite meditation you can also go straight to it in the “explore” section.  The app even keeps track of how you’re feeling, your meditation streak, and gives you stickers for achieving different goals.  They even have a special app for kids which includes special shorter meditations.

The only downside is that this app has a much smaller selection of meditations that are available for free.

 

There are many other apps out there, but these are three that I’ve tried and currently have on my phone.  I encourage you to try out one of these apps today.  Also, be sure to share this article with your friends so that they can learn about these great apps.

 

Have you tried these apps? What did you think of them?  Have you tried other apps that you really liked? If so, what were they?  Let me know in the comments!

 

Mindful Musings

A mental health journey through mindfulness

5 Ways to Incorporate mindfulness into Your Day

When starting your mindfulness journey, figuring out how to make time for mindfulness can be a struggle.  You realize what a benefit it will be to your health, but you don’t necessarily think you can put in a full thirty minute meditation session.  Honestly, you might even still be hesitant about the whole concept of meditation.

This is especially true if you don’t always have time for a full blown meditation, or maybe we just don’t think we do.  An article in the Huffington Post about finding time to meditate states that most of the time we just don’t think we have the time, even though many of us spend plenty of time scrolling through social media.  Honestly, this is something that even the seasoned pros of mindfulness struggle with.

So, today I’m going to give you five different ways to make that time.  Some of them would allow time for meditation, others would allow you to simply have time to be mindful of the present moment.  Don’t worry if you’re confused about how to be mindful without meditation.  I’ll explain this in more detail later in the article.

1. First thing in the Morning

This has to be one of my favorite times to meditate.  Just think of it, what better way to greet the day than meditating and enjoying the present moment?  I personally enjoy using guided meditations, many of which can be found on various apps and websites.  There are even specific morning meditations, but you don’t necessarily have to use them.  Another way to meditate in the morning is to simply set a timer and just be still.  Notice how your body is feeling that day, without being judgmental, and just let your thoughts be as they are.  I have found that it’s best to do this meditation in the same place every day.  I find that doing this puts me in a better place throughout the day.

2. When you Brush your Teeth

Alright, I know this probably sounds weird, but this is a great example of a mindfulness moment that really doesn’t need guidance.  The first time I’d heard of this meditation was from a mindfulness class that I took.  The premise revolves around preventing your mind from wandering.  What are you usually thinking about when you brush your teeth? Probably everything but brushing your teeth, right?  Well, for this exercise, when you go to brush your teeth try to actually focus on what you’re doing.  Notice what you feel, taste, hear, etc., and just let thoughts come and go without judgement.  It’s a great way to train your mind to stop racing, even if it’s only for a few minutes.  Those few minutes can train your brain to be more mindful throughout the day.

3. When you take a Work Break

This is also a very simple way to incorporate mindfulness into your day.  I’m sure when many of us take a work break, we tend to reach for our phone so that we can mindlessly scroll through social media for a few minutes.  Well, instead of doing that, practicing mindfulness is a great way to use your time when taking a break.  There are plenty of guided meditations for work breaks.  I know I’ve found a few that I like on the app, Simple Habit.  Again, if you’d rather do an unguided meditation, that’s perfectly okay too.  I recommend simply checking in with how you’re feeling in that moment, noticing the breath, while not making an effort to change or judge anything.  As I mentioned before it’s also important to just let thoughts come and go during the mindfulness practice.

4. When you’re on a Commute

This is another one of my favorite times to be mindful.  You can approach this a number of different ways.  If you’re walking, you can try a walking meditation (Simple Habit has these too).  You can also just take the time to notice your surroundings.  Focus on what you see, hear, smell, etc.   I Personally love doing this while I’m walking to class.  It really gives me an opportunity to clear my head throughout the day.  You can also do a similar practice while driving.  Of course, it is important to make sure that you remain aware while driving, you wouldn’t want to lose yourself in your thoughts and risk hurting yourself or others.

5. Before you go to Bed

I also really like practicing a mindfulness meditation at this point in the day.  The concept is very similar to meditating in the morning.  There are many different kinds of meditations that can even help you fall asleep (Simple Habit has these too, can you tell I like that app?).  Many professionals say it’s bad to fall asleep while meditating but personally I think it’s a great way to fall asleep.  Even if you don’t use a guided meditation, you can simply focus on your breath.  You know the old expression of counting sheep?  Well, they might’ve been on to something.  Many mindfulness professionals recommend counting breaths to relax you.  This is of course also a great way to fall asleep.

I hope at least one of these ways to be mindful has resonated with you today.  It’s also important to note, that you don’t have to do all of these in one day (although if you do more power to you, I can assure you that it’s worth it).  Maybe just start out by dipping your metaphorical mindfulness toe in the water by trying one of these exercises.  I can say from experience that even just one of them can make a difference.

So what do you think about the ideas I’ve given? Have any of you tried them? What did you like or dislike about it? Do you have any other ways to incorporate mindfulness into your day?  Let me know in the comments!

 

Mindful Musings

A Mental Health Journey through Mindfulness

 

Photo Credits:

photo credit: Alex-de-Haas <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/134751177@N08/33938767623″>Daybreak.</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>(license)</a>

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What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness seems to have become somewhat of a buzzword in this day and age.  From companies beginning to instill mindfulness practices in the workplace, to a plethora of mindful mobile apps being produced, you’ve probably heard the term a time or two on the internet or in conversation.  However, I have a feeling that a lot of people (through no fault of their own) don’t actually know what mindfulness is.

This lack of knowledge can often lead to misconceptions regarding the mindfulness practice.  These misconceptions can sometimes turn judgmental.  Over the past few months of my journey with mindfulness, I’ve come to realize that for as many people who embrace the mindfulness practice, there are just as many who are skeptical of it.  This is most likely due in part to the buzzword mentality of the mindfulness practice.

Therefore, my first goal in starting this blog is to clear up any confusion on what mindfulness actually is.

First, I resorted to academic articles to find the answer, and I found an encyclopedia entry on mindfulness.  One thing that struck me about the entry was that mindfulness was deemed “an individually defined attention-training practice.” In other words, the definition of mindfulness is up to your own interpretation.

 

Well, that makes this easy doesn’t it?

 

Regardless, I’m still going to give a few other “interpretations,” but keep in mind that these are just that: interpretations.  Mindfulness in its modern form is relatively new and is a constantly evolving practice.

In speaking of the modern form of mindfulness, maybe it would be best if I explain the origins of mindfulness in order to better understand its implications in today’s society.

While mindfulness did originate in Hinduism, most other religions also have a history of using it in practice.  However, I think it’s important to note that mindfulness does not have to be religiously based.  Anyone and everyone can practice mindfulness.  Some sources say that an essential part of mindfulness is believing in a higher power, but I feel that mindfulness is more about living in the moment and letting things be the way they are in a nonjudgmental manner.  While some people may prefer religious meditation, it’s certainly not the only option.

Now back to the modern form of mindfulness.  This modern form was created by Jon Kabat-Zinn.  In addition to being a professor he also founded the first modern clinical center for mindfulness.  He’s also wrote many books, one of which, Wherever You go, There You Are, was a book I read for a mindfulness class I took that was extremely insightful.  At a later time I will be writing a profile article on more of the works of Kabat-Zinn, so stay tuned for that.

Once Kabat-Zinn kicked off this modern mindfulness practice in the 1980’s, mainstream culture really latched on to the idea. Classes are now being held on college campuses, much like the one I participated in, and as I stated before there were countless books, websites and apps that have been developed since.

Now you can see that mindfulness isn’t just some religious ideology.  While it may have it’s roots in religion it has been well received by many different cultures and has been taken in a more modern direction by scholars and psychologists alike.

I hope you learned a little about mindfulness today.  What do you think about the history of mindfulness?  Do you have any questions about my interpretation? Do you have a different interpretation?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

 

Mindful Musings

A mental health journey through mindfulness.

Photo licensed through creative commons