Has Your Mind Gone Bat Shit Crazy?
If you're anything like me, your day is filled with countless lists of "things-to-do" and "want-to-do". It always seems that the shit you have to get done never ends. Society today doesn't allow your mind to rest. You're always multi-tasking and racing around the clock to get the next project done. When you finally want to catch some shut eye, you can't. Your mind just won't shut up; thinking of this and that and the other. Ever find yourself thinking of something that happened to you eons ago? Where are these thoughts coming from and most importantly should you give a damn about them?
Recently, I've discovered the power of mindfulness. Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D. is a world-renowned mindfulness expert, author, meditation teacher and scientist. He's helped bring mindfulness into the mainstream of medicine and society. Dr. Kabat-Zinn founded the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society in Massachusetts.
SO WHAT'S MINDFULNESS?
being in the moment, not doing
paying attention with a purpose
re-directing your thoughts to the present task you're trying to focus on
training your brain to slow the f@$k down (pardon my french)
it's a way of being, not a technique
being in the present moment without judging or being attached to the outcome
it's NOT practicing distraction
Practicing distraction gets you nowhere. In fact being under constant stress can seriously impact your health and not in a good way. Things to watch out for include:
increase risk of heart attack or stroke
high blood pressure
loss of memory
I don't think I need to make this list any longer...
So why should you practice mindfulness? Well, why not?
make better decisions
decreases risk of illness
better relationships with friends and family
combat your fears
reach your life goals
make actual brain changes
Doesn't this all sound amazing?! Ok, now I feel like I'm selling you a gimmick, but I'm not. I've reaped the benefits of practicing mindfulness in just the past 2 months that I've been practicing. I'm not perfect at it by any means and I never expect to be perfect at it because perfection means you're done learning and you know, I NEVER STOP LEARNING.
Being mindful is a way of life; a way of living life hour to hour, day to day, moment to moment. So don't let life pass you by.
Here's how you can strengthen your mindfulness muscle:
Breathe: Take 3 deep breaths multiple times a day. A slow inhale and even slower exhale. Focus on slowing down the exhale as this stimulates the calming part of the nervous system. In the beginning, you might need to set a timer or use a behavior that triggers you to remember to breathe. I practice breathing every time my hand touches the door knob in between each client. You'll be surprised how often you forget to breathe.
Practice daily mindful meditation: Meditation can be as short or as long as you want. If all you have to give is 5min, that's great! Follow these simple steps to get you started.
Sit comfortably in a chair or on the floor with with your eyes closed, spine straight, and hands resting in your lap
Focus on where you feel your breath the most. Is it the nose, chest or belly?
When your attention wanders from your breath, catch yourself and bring your focus back to the breath
Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. If your mind wanders a million times then re-direct it back a million times.
Practice, practice, practice! It's the only way you'll really strengthen your mindfulness muscle.
3. Apply mindfulness to your daily tasks:
Pick a task you want to focus on.
Only think about what you're doing in that moment. For example: if you're brushing your teeth, just think about your toothbrush, taste of toothpaste, your teeth, etc.
If you find your mind wandering bring it back to your task
It's ok for thoughts and distractions to come into your mind. Acknowledge them, but don't let yourself get lost in those thoughts. I like to visualize myself shutting the door as a way to re-connect my attention to the task.
Re-direct as much as you need too, even if it takes a million times!
Practice, practice, practice! Seeing a theme here yet?
4. Focus on your "magic" thumb: If you're a Harry Potter fan, this one's for you.
No really, try it for a minute. Stick your thumb out and pretend it's got magical powers. Notice how it feels, what do you feel, see, hear, smell, and taste? Tune in to all 5 of your senses.
If you're a person that needs some guidance, there are a ton of great apps out there that could help you strengthen your mindfulness muscle.
Meditation apps I like:
You also get the benefits of mindfulness with yoga, tai chi, or any other exercise that requires you to focus. Bottom line, make it fun for you and customize it to your lifestyle. Leave that crazy bat locked up in its cage. Nobody should to deal with that shit, especially you!
Leave a comment below and tell me how your practice is going. What's your struggle? How about accomplishments? How's it making you feel? Practicing mindfulness is hard at first and by supporting each other we have the strength to keep going when the going gets tough.