Recently, there has been much focus on mindfulness. And before you start thinking “I can’t meditate,” let me explain.
Mindfulness is simply “being in the moment.” Being aware of your surroundings, feeling the breeze on your face, feeling the heat on your skin, noticing your space among others around you. And then there is also the flip side – noticing that your head hurts a bit, noticing that your breathing is shallow, that your shoulders have been stuck in the “right under your ears” position as you work toward a deadline.
Why should you care?
Checking out from your busy-ness can be the next step to a happier, healthier life – one that allows you to be more emotionally available for what you want to do for yourself and those around you.
What’s the worst that can happen if you don’t work late or on the weekend? Will you lose out on that promotion, or worse yet, will you get fired? In most cases, the answer is “no”!
Only you can make the judgment call about whether your sacrifices are worth it. And by “worth it,” I mean are those sacrifices something in your heart that you want to do?
Do you want to participate in an onsite school function for your child? Yes.
Do you want to participate in every onsite school function for your child’s school? Perhaps not.
Do you want to work on a holiday weekend to complete your obligations for a priority project? Yes.
Do you want to work on a holiday weekend to impress someone who may or may not notice? No.
Do you want to cancel your massage or other self-care appointment because a real work emergency has come up? Yes.
Do you want to cancel your appointment for yourself based on “what may happen” at work? No.
These types of questions help you raise your awareness of how you classify your “must do’s” that keep you in perpetual motion. So, what if you decided to challenge your own status quo and ask yourself some clarifying questions before you make these decisions. That would really help you raise your awareness before making a decision that puts your needs and wants last.
WHAT ABOUT MINDFULNESS?
Mindfulness is all about raising awareness, so you don’t make these quick, knee-jerk decisions based on bad assumptions. It’s also about taking the time to process the thoughts that are behind your actions. What stories are you telling yourself that make you say “yes” when you should be saying “no”?
Let’s dig a little deeper. Have you been on a quest to find more time for yourself, get out from under all of your obligations, or simply find time to breathe? Well, learning to tap into mindfulness may be your answer.
STRATEGIES FOR TAPPING INTO YOUR MINDFULNESS
BEGIN WITH YOUR BREATH –
You probably don’t even notice, but when you are stressed and overwhelmed, your breathing is often shallow. When you breathe this way, you are using only a small percentage of your lung capacity. You can begin your mindfulness exercise with this step – take a moment to see how you are breathing. Are you breathing with short shallow breaths, probably without your chest even rising and falling to a great extent? That tells you your breathing is shallow.
How do you transform your breathing? You begin with noticing how you are breathing. The desire to notice your breathing pattern will cause you to pause for a moment in a conscious way. Only then can you make another conscious decision to take deeper breaths – this time deep from your belly. When you breathe this way, your belly should extend on the inhale and be drawn in for the exhale.
What does this have to do with mindfulness? It forces you to go from a state of being on “automatic pilot” to making a conscious choice regarding how to breathe. This heightened state of consciousness can be used in many aspects of your life.
THINK ABOUT YOUR EATING
How and where do you consume your meals? Do you eat in the car during a break to run errands? Do you eat standing up in the kitchen after feeding everyone else? Do you eat quickly at your desk and work while you do that? Or do you actually go out to eat with others and feel compelled to eat as quickly as they do?
Herein lies another opportunity to practice mindfulness. What if you took the time to eat, away from your work, actually seated, perhaps dining with other people that you enjoy or your loving family? Now that you’ve got the picture regarding the need to make eating a separate activity, we can begin to explore the “how” you eat.
What if you took the time to actually select your food based on what you felt like eating? And then when it arrived, you took a second to look at the presentation on the plate, smell the aroma, and think about the mix of flavors you are about to enjoy . . . . doesn’t that sound wonderful?
The final step is to eat more slowly, chewing each bite, so it’s more enjoyable and easier to digest. And, you can’t worry about what other people think or say while you enjoy your meal – after all, this is YOUR meal.
How do you wake up? Do you sit up in bed, horrified to hear that dreadful alarm each day? Do you jump up and get ready for your day without thinking about how you slept or whether you are rested? This is another opportunity to practice mindfulness.
I can tell you when I suffer from vertigo (it comes and goes), I am forced to wake up slowly and lay there for a moment, so the room won’t start spinning. You may not have this same issue, but the opportunity is the same. You can actually have a ritual for waking up that can set the tone for your entire day.
Can you imagine waking up slowly, allowing your body to wake up gently while it is still in the prone position? What if you wiggled your toes and fingers to get the blood flowing a bit? You could move your head from side to side to get your neck moving. You could take your deep belly breaths before even getting up to flood your lungs and bloodstream with oxygen.
WHY DO THESE THINGS MATTER?
They matter because you matter! Your health and well-being is the vehicle that allows you to do everything that you love, earn a living, and interact with those most important to you. Only you can decide whether making changes in this area is worthy of your effort. I can honestly say that if you choose to make the effort, the rewards are well worth it.
Get in touch with who you truly are and how you want to live. I promise you it’s worth it. Impress yourself first and conserve your best effort for the things that make you more available, more productive, and more tuned in to you and those you love.
If this is something that you’d like to learn more about, I’ve created a quiz called Your Ideal Life Quiz. It will give you a sense of how close you are to living your ideal life. And to move closer to your ideal life, you need to practice mindfulness. You will need to practice the concept of “being vs. doing”!
Click here to take the quiz to learn more about where you are.