Self-Care: Mindfulness Matters

Each month I share self-care information with the faculty & staff at the school where I work.  Here is the self-care tip for Septemember:

Self-Care:  Consciously choosing behaviors that help balance emotional and physical stress.

Mindfulness Matters

One of the greatest ways to balance emotional stress is through the practice of mindfulness.  Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn could be called the father of mindfulness based stress reduction, and workshops and trainings based on his teachings are becoming more readily available throughout the world to help people dealing with all sorts of stressors in their lives.  Two decades of published research has indicated that the majority of people who complete a mindfulness based stress reduction program report:

·        Lasting decreases in physical and psychological symptoms

·        An increased ability torelax

·        Reductions in pain levels and an enhanced ability tocope with pain that may not go away

·        Greater energy and enthusiasm for life

·        Improved self-esteem

·        An ability to cope more effectively with both short and long-term stressful situations

If we let our minds always be the steering wheel for our lives, it will speed us into the future (often creating feelings of anxiety and/or fear) or turn us around and drag us back to the past (often creating feelings of guilt, sadness, and/or regret).You are more than your mind, and it is possible to disconnect, observe, and even quiet the constant dialogue going on in your head.

What exactly is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a state of active and open attention on the present. When you’re in a state of mindfulness, you are able to observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance,without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.

While you may not want to commit to an entire mindfulness based stress reduction program, here are just a few mindfulness practices you can implement throughout your day to help keep your stress levels at bay:

Mindfulness Practice Option 1: Appreciation

·       Make a commitment to pause what you are doing at least once a day and check in~noticing and focusing on what you are able to appreciate in that moment.  It may be something about yourself, a loved one, or something in your environment. Allow a sense of appreciation to radiate through your body to each and every cell. This is an incredible sensation and feeling and can change the trajectory of your day!

Mindfulness Practice Option 2: Breathe

·       Make a commitment to pause what you are doing at least once a day and focus in on your breath & sensations in our body.  Sit or stand tall and without controlling your breath, notice it rise up in you and naturally and easily release.  As you start to pay attention to your breath, you may notice it naturally slows down, signaling to your body you are relaxed and calm. When we use our breath to get present in our lives, our monkey minds lose power, and it feels really good!

Mindfulness Requirement: SHOW UP FULLY FOR OTHERS

(I’m not calling this an option because I believe it should be a requirement!)

·       Make a commitment to show up fully (physically, emotionally, mentally, energetically) in your interactions with others. For example, if you are talking to someone on the phone, stop what you were doing and focus fully on the conversation.  Give the person your full attention and be present for him or her.  (It’s really ok to not answer your cell phone if you’re in the middle of another task! I would much rather talk with someone who is fully with me than someone who is grocery shopping, driving, cleaning the house, etc…you get the idea.).  If you are playing with a child, BE THERE. Play with them. Try not to be making a grocery list or to-do list in your head while interacting with the young one. (They usually intuitively know if you’re really there with them or not.) If you’re in the middle of doing something and your spouse, friend, or loved one begins talking to you and you know you’re distracted, it’s ok to say, “I really want to give you my full attention.  Can you wait a few minutes until I’m done with this task? And, then I’m all yours.”

Think how different many of our relationships would be if we were truly present in our interactions with those we care for and love!

Keep in mind: mindfulness is an ongoing practice.  It takes awareness & commitment~with that being said, it is an incredibly worthwhile endeavor!

Keep Breathing Deeply & Shine On,

Leslie ~Sparkling Yogini

Resources: http://www.umassmed.edu/cfm/stress/index.aspx  & http://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/mindfulness

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