In my last post, I identified a few common self care strategies that you can implement in your life. One of the suggestions offered was mindfulness. This strategy has become a HUGE part of my life because it can be used at any point throughout the day.
Mindfulness is the state of being self-aware and non-judgmental about your thoughts in the present moment. It helps you to unlock that "inner child" and gain a sense of "awe" about mundane, every day activities.
Sometimes, we get overwhelmed. Our minds have a habit engaging in cognitive distortions (negative thinking patterns) and rumination when under stress. For example, the mind might start thinking about a mistake that was made, or get worried about something it has planned for the end of the week. Through all of that, it may get lost in the "what if's" and the "should's" of any situation, causing the feeling of being emotionally drained and worn out. Mindfulness allows yourself time to take a step back yo recognize the distressing thought, analyze its usefulness, cope, and move past it. Sometimes it's as easy as taking a few deep breaths, other times its much more difficult.
Mindfulness requires A LOT of practice, but the good news is that it can be practiced ANYWHERE. Here's how:
1. Mindfulness Meditation
All you need is space away from distractions to start. Take time to use all your senses--sight, smell, taste, sound, and touch--to immerse yourself in your surroundings. It's important to put your attention on something like trying to notice something new about the room you're in, or on your breathing. It's important to note your mind is going to wonder. When this happens, notice your thought and gently shift it back to your breathing. As you first start to practice, you mind might wonder a lot. THAT'S OKAY! Move your attention back to where you started as many times as needed. Try this for three to five minutes to start. You can increase your sessions the more you practice.
2. Mindfulness Walks
This is where you use those 5 senses while you take a stroll. It's easy to get lost in the everyday, hustle, and bustle of life. Next time you take a walk in your neighborhood or from your car to the office, pay closer attention to the sun or breeze on your skin, the smell of nearby flowers, the sound of birds chirping, or cars moving past you. By paying attention to these senses, you are completely aware of the things that are going on around you. Your settings are happening in the here and now. You are present in this moment. There are times your mind will start thinking about the meetings, appointments, or assignments. Just tell yourself, "Now is not the time for me to worry about what was or what could be," and move your awareness to the present moment.
3. Mindfulness Activities
I practice this when I'm doing chores, or practicing other forms of self care (like showering). Basically it's where you focus your mind entirely on what you are doing in the moment. If you're sweeping in the kitchen, think about what direction you're doing it. How heavy does your broom feel? Are you catching all the loose dirt or is there a spot that you may have missed? When you're taking a shower, how does your soap smell? Is the water warm, or cool? When you're having a drink of coffee, is it as sweet as you would like it? Dive deep into whatever activity you're engaging in. Really think about what it is you're doing. This helps you to stay within the present moment, instead of rushing through life.
Like I said, practicing these activities might be difficult at first. It's easy to get wrapped up in our mind or with the things that we need to do. By slowing ourselves down purposefully, we really start to appreciate all the things we do.
Mindfulness has helped me to practice gratitude in the uninteresting parts of my life. This has brought a new sense of wonder and fulfillment to my daily routine. Think of yourself as a child learning the ins and outs of life for the first time as you practice this strategy.
But how does mindfulness relate to self care? Why would it be so important?
Self care is the act of doing something positive for yourself. It's easy to think that means running through life, having a small healthy snack while rushing to your two o'clock. You might think that wouldn't cause you to feel refreshed or relieved in the slightest. This is because your mind is on fire! You're hurrying through this one small thing that you're doing for yourself, when you could be enjoying it in every sense.
Our brains have a habit of thinking, "Well, I did something good for myself. Why am I not relaxed, satisfied, or at ease?" But are you really enjoying that healthy choice WHILE MAKING that decision? For example, exercise is AMAZING for your physical and mental health, but I can't fully enjoy my decision to exercise if I'm worried about what I need to get done for the rest of my day. I mean, I'm doing something good for MYSELF! Mindfulness helps me to take that hour and a half to focus my attention on this one activity. What happens outside of that gym is not within my present moment. Practicing mindfulness helps me to enjoy my positive choices WHILE I'm making them and enhances the effect of my self care.
When we engage in self care, it's important to take the time to appreciate the act of kindness that you are providing for yourself. Completely indulge yourself in your positive choices. This will help you to improve yourself care tremendously.
As Always, Self Care is the Best Care!
image taken from Pinterest