Practicing mindfulness daily can be a perfect start to looking after your mental state.
What is mindfulness?
There are many definitions of mindfulness but according to Psychology Today, "Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you are mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them as good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience (2017)."
What does that mean? Mindfulness is when you take time each day to just be. In that time, you let thoughts come and go without holding back any emotions entering your mind, and you do this without judging yourself. When is that last time you took ten minutes to be with your own thoughts? This can be a scary thought for many of us which is why we tend to keep ourselves busy when we are struggling. I'm suggesting that with daily practice you realize you want to just "be" instead. In time you will find that when you are practicing mindfulness, the random thoughts have slowed. Before you know it, you see a change in how you think, feel, and react throughout the day.
How did I get started?
Some ways I apply mindfulness
My child knows the voice of Andy from Headspace and likes the soothing sound of the ocean background in Simply Being. We have a routine of reading a few books and then I say, "Would you like to hear Andy or the ocean?" She is very clear of her preference on a given day. Sometimes when really tired, she says, "Mama, Andy," or "Mama, ocean."
Eating- The first time I tried mindful eating was during one of my counseling courses. We were given a raisin and our professor talked about the ways we should look at the raisin. He had us move the raisin around between our finger and thumb to feel the wrinkles and the texture. We then smelled the raisin and he had us visualize the grape hanging on a vine in the countryside being hit with sunshine. He talked us through the whole process of the grape being picked, dried, and shipped. We closed our eyes, put the raisin in our mouth, and moved it around without biting it. By the time we ate the raisin, I could not believe how it tasted. Unreal. Of course we don't mindfully eat every morsel of food every day. When I do try mindful eating, I'm always amazed how much tastier the food I'm eating tastes. One thing I've noticed is that it's quite tricky to drink a soft drink or have packaged foods that you cannot even begin to trace back to their roots after mindfully eating. I really think about what I'm putting in my body at all times. If you struggle with being an emotional eater, mindfulness might be a good place to start. Headspace has a series for mindful eating.
At school - For many years now I have worked mindfulness into lessons, assemblies, group, and individual counseling sessions. It's quite amazing to have an entire school doing a breathing exercise and watch everyone's shoulders drop to a relaxed state. I also counsel people with serious issues so I practice mindfulness when I need to practice self-care during the school day. If I have a deadline I'm trying to meet and find myself running low on energy or ability to focus, mindfulness is my way to fight through.
When exercising or in nature - I often practice mindfulness when I run or walk in nature. Some of my best problem solving happens from the thoughts that come and go on a run. Sometimes I run to a designated spot, like the beach, and practice while watching waves come in or I head out on a hiking trail and sit beside a babbling stream for a short while. Being among nature is one of my favorite ways to sneak in mindfulness. Many of you already experience mindfulness if you participate in yoga courses.
Benefits of Mindfulness
- negative emotions
- pain and chronic pain
- being critical while ruminating about self
- contempt and hostility
- stress markers in blood and saliva
- ability to regulate emotion
- positive emotions
- helping deal with unpleasant thoughts without being overwhelmed
- life satisfaction
- ability to judge others' emotions
- responses to stress
- feelings of helpfulness
- memory and attention
- self compassion
- strength and size of parts of brain dealing with attention, concentration, emotional intelligence, and compassion
Mindfulness for the classroom - appropriate for teachers or parents with no experience
Mindfulness resources for teens and teachers building programs - appropriate for adults, as well
Mindfulness resources for all ages
Science of Happiness - can take the course for free or a minimal fee if you'd like a certificate of completion
Information about Mindful Based Cognitive Therapy - includes simple exercises
2017 Mindfulness articles - includes articles with links to videos, courses, child, teen, and adult activities
Quiz created by Greater Good out of Berkley to get a sense of where you are in terms of mindfulness.
Cardaciotto, Herbert L., J. D. Forman, E. Moitra, and V. Farrow. "Mindfulness Quiz." Greater Good. Berkley, 2008. Web. 02 Mar. 2017.
Hannay, Catharine. "Five Senses Snack: A Mindful Eating Chart." Mindful Teachers. Mindfulteachers.org, 9 Aug. 2013. Web. 29 Apr. 2017.
Keltner, Dacher and Emiliana Simon-Thomas. "Science of Happiness." Science of Happiness. Berkley. 20 Oct. 2014. EdX - Science of Happiness. Web. 29 Apr. 2017.
Puddicombe, Andy. Andy Puddicombe: All it takes is 10 mindful minutes | TED Talk | TED.com. N.p., Jan. 2013. Web. 29 Apr. 2017.
Tix, Andy, Thomas Hills, and Eval Winter. Mindfulness." Psychology Today. N.p., 2017. Web. 02 Mar. 2017.
Stahl, Bob. MBSRWorkbook. Raisin Meditation. YouTube, 22 Mar. 2010. Web. 29 Apr. 2017.