If your response to the frequent suggestion to download a meditation app is a swift and decisive no, you’re definitely not alone. Many of us are in no mood to sit quietly.
TalkSpace Therapist Cynthia Catchings said her clients often dismiss the idea of meditation, but find mindful activities more approachable.
“Mindfulness is about being aware of who you are, how you feel, and where you are,” she said. “You can practice that at any point, anywhere you are.”
In fact, much of our day is spent being mindful without us even noticing—like when you realize you’ve driven all the way to work without the radio on. It also happens while cleaning, bird watching, spending time outdoors, or even sitting at your desk. You’re observing the trees or the items on your desk top. You’re processing how your surroundings are making you feel.
Mindfulness can help ease stress and anxious feelings. It’s been associated with improved blood pressure and sugar levels. It can help clear your mind so you can make better decisions. A mindfulness practice might even help you sleep better.
The mindful activity can be very simple. Catchings said she had one client open his mouth as wide as he could like a big yawn and let his stress out as he closed his mouth. The client reported that the simple practice brought immediate release. He would visualize the stress, problems, and negative energy leaving his mouth.
“You start feeling happier and because of that, you start to enjoy feeling more social and people notice,” Catchings said. “It’s contagious.”
Walking meditation is a popular way of combining exercise and mindfulness. Meditation is an intentional time spent clearing the mind. It’s not about solving a problem.
“Let the thoughts, feelings and emotions come to you,” Catchings said.
She likes to imagine those thoughts as clouds that come to you and then float past. The idea of meditation is to see if the stress or problem goes away.
Catchings suggests having a few mindful activities to try or cycle through.
It can be as simple as opening your mouth wide to let the negative feelings out. It can also be taking a moment to acknowledge where you are and taking a few deep breaths.
She also recommends a body scan. Mentally scan each body part from feet to head then head to feet. Notice any pain, discomfort, or tension. You can wiggle toes, bend your knees, wiggle back and forth, shake your head and then work your way back in reverse. That will help you feel centered.
Another of Catchings favorite practices is to write positive words on slips of paper (like grateful, joy, and peace), fold them up and put them in a bowl. Each morning, the slip you pull will be your mantra for the day. When you start to notice negative feelings, use your mantra to reframe the experience. For example, commute frustration can be reframed as feeling grateful that you have a job to go to or are safe in your car.
Insider Tips for Being Mindful
We asked some Actively Northwest Insiders how they get mindful (without sitting still).
Sally likes meditation in the form of a short walk outside her house at the beginning or end of the day. She takes time to notice sounds and her environment.
Rachel finds daily mindfulness in the form of cleaning the barn on her farm. It gives her an opportunity to sit outside, listen to the sounds around her, and let go of things for the day.
Carie finds mindfulness while eating. She likes to eat slowly and not do anything else. It helps her taste the food, enjoy the lovely coolness of ice water, and think about the journey the food has taken to get to her table.
Laurie enjoys baking mindfully, especially the physical effort it takes. Instead of using electric helpers, she likes to use a fork to mash bananas, a knife to chop nuts, and a wooden spoon to mix. She is mindful while she works and then notices the happiness she gets from smelling her creation.
Christine finds mindfulness outside working on her yard. While she’s cleaning up flower beds, pruning, or digging in the dirt, she gets to zone out and get a sense of accomplishment.
How do you get mindful? Please join Actively Northwest Insiders on Facebook to share your experiences.
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