My last blog to you talked about our current Wild World experience, how important self-care is during times like these, and outlined 5 Self-Care Quick Tips for Health & Joy in our Wild World. I’m adding another tip to that self-care list today, which wanted to be offered as the star of its Own Show (this newsletter) so we could explore it more fully.
That quick tip? A daily MINDFULNESS practice.
What IS mindfulness, anyways?
I think of mindfulness as a different, more easily accessible, form of meditation. And, I also think of meditation as being a type of mindfulness practice. Closely related as they are, they both contribute to reducing stress and its effects on our body and mind.
Mindfulness is such an important tool, that it’s one of the mighty Three Amigos (mindfulness, awareness, curiosity) that is threaded throughout my recent book, Wild World, Joyful Heart (WWJH). AND, it’s also the very first of the Ten Healing Practices for the mind that we explore together in said book. Mindfulness is nothing short of magical!
In WWJH, I define mindfulness as, “Attention to the present moment in its fullness, without judgement.” I also share that, “This sounds fairly ordinary, but it’s in direct opposition to the manner in which many of us navigate our days. Mindfulness is being aware of the fullness of now—connected to who we are, what we’re doing, and what we’re experiencing—while quieting judgement of, and resistance to, what is. Mindfulness begins with the body, where we take the time to pay attention to our physical body interacting with our environment. We then expand that focus to keen awareness of what’s happening right now—physical sensations, emotions, thoughts—minus our opinion of it. Mindfulness is mediation in action.”
Hm. What can mindfulness DO for me?
A mindfulness practice creates S-P-A-C-E in our mind, creating a pause in our internal incessant mental chatter about the past and the future. This pause allows our entire Being—Body, Mind and Spirit—to align and decompress. The mental/emotional outcomes of this shift include increased focus, improved emotional regulation, increased empathy and compassion, increased resilience, improved creativity, and increased emotional intelligence. As if all that weren’t enough to get us pretty stoked about mindfulness, it also influences our body.
Your read that right. Mindfulness, a practice that spans several millenia, has direct effects on our physical well-being. In addition to helping relieve stress, mindfulness can treat heart disease, lower blood pressure, reduce chronic pain, improve sleep, and alleviate digestive issues. Pretty intriguing, huh?
“But wait. Isn’t mindfulness, like, HARD?”
Well, for starters, even if it were hard, it’s sure as heck not as hard as being stressed-out, emotionally reactive, and navigating multiple physical health issues to boot. Agreed? But the good news is, mindfulness is much more accessible and easy than most folks imagine.
Okay, let’s have it. How do I do it?
First, as a reminder, mindfulness is about paying attention to the present moment, and doing that with intention and without judgement. I suggest you start by choosing one small thing to do mindfully every day. Ideas include:
- Mindful brushing of teeth
- Mindful eating
- Mindful awareness of breath
- Mindful driving
- Mindful dishwashing
- Mindful gardening
- Mindful cooking
The trick is to first choose something that you do every day, especially something earlier in the day that becomes part of your morning routine before things get tricky or rushed-feeling as the day proceeds. (Later in your practice, those tricky or rushed-feeling times is exactly when mindfulness can be super-helpful!)
So let’s say you choose brushing of teeth, something that most of us do before we leave our home. During the one minute that you brush your teeth, you are completely focused on your teeth-brushing experience—how it feels in your hand to squeeze the toothpaste; what the toothpaste tastes and feels like in your mouth; how it feels in your nose when you breath in the (most often) minty fragrance—while giving your attention to the careful scrubbing of all your teeth. You experience teeth-brushing as if you were a child brushing their teeth for the first time, each and every time you do it.
In the beginning, you simply commit to that one minute a day. Maybe after a week or so, you start to add in other mindful activities like driving, eating, cooking and/or breathing. One of the beauties of mindfulness is that it’s not something you have to fit into your schedule. You can’t “not have time” for mindfulness because you do it by simply engaging with your normal activities in a different way.
Over time, you start to notice that your mind and emotions feel more quiet and centered. Maybe you notice that you’re sleeping better or your doc notices that your high blood pressure has gone down a bit. At the least, each day you are giving your mind-brain a break from continually re-hashing the past and planning/dramatizing about the future—especially during these chaotic times.
At its best, mindfulness becomes a way of life, reducing stress and emotional drama, and increasing our connection to the present moment. This brings more health and joy into our daily life experience on all levels. We feel more at peace.
With love and mindfulness,