Mindfulness & Meditation

Mindful Wake-up:  Starting Your Day

1. On waking, sit on your bed or a chair in a relaxed posture. Close your eyes and connect with the sensations of your seated body. Make sure your spine is straight, but not rigid.

2. Take three long, deep, nourishing breaths—breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. Then let your breath settle into its own rhythm, as you simply follow it in and out, noticing the rise and fall of your chest and belly as you breathe.

3. Ask yourself: “What is my intention for today?” Use these prompts to help answer that question, as you think about the people and activities you will face. Ask yourself:

  • How might I show up today to have the best impact?

  • What quality of mind do I want to strengthen and develop?

  • What do I need to take better care of myself?

  • During difficult moments, how might I be more compassionate to others and myself?

  • How might I feel more connected and fulfilled?

4. Set your intention for the day. For example, “Today, I will be kind to myself; be patient with others; give generously; stay grounded; persevere; have fun; eat well,” or anything else you feel is important.

5. Throughout the day, check in with yourself. Pause, take a breath, and revisit your intention. Notice, as you become more and more conscious of your intentions for each day, how the quality of your communications, relationships, and mood shifts.

Mindful Eating: Enjoy Every Mouthful

We do not often associate eating with mindfulness , but we can turn eating into a richer experience, satisfying not just the need for nutrition, but more subtle senses and needs. When we bring our full attention to our bodies and what we are truly hungry for, we can nourish all our hungers. Try this:

1. Breathe before eating. We often move from one task right to the other without pausing or taking a breath.  By pausing, we slow down and allow for a more calm transition to our meals. Bring your attention inward by closing your eyes, and begin to breathe slowly in and out of your belly for eight to 10 deep breaths before you start your meal.

2. Listen to your body. After breathing, bring your awareness to the physical sensations in your belly. On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being that you don’t feel any physical sensation of hunger and 10 being that you feel very hungry, ask yourself “How hungry am I?” What physical sensations tell you that you are hungry or not hungry (emptiness in stomach, shakiness, no desire to eat, stomach growling, etc.)? Try not to think about when you last ate or what time it is, and really listen to your body, not your thoughts.

3. Eat according to your hunger. Now that you are more in touch with how hungry you are, you can more mindfully choose what to eat, when to eat, and how much to eat. This simple practice can help you tune in to your real needs.

4. Practice peaceful eating. At your next meal, slow down and continue to breathe deeply as you eat. It’s not easy to digest or savor your food if you aren’t relaxed.

5. If you don’t love it, don’t eat it. Take your first three bites mindfully, experience the taste, flavors, textures, and how much enjoyment you are receiving from a certain food. Make a mindful choice about what to eat based on what you really enjoy.

Mindful Workout: Activate Your Mind and Your Muscles

Riding a bike, lifting weights, running or walking-whatever physical activity you enjoy, move and breathe in a way that not only gets your blood pumping and invigorates your body, but also shifts you from feeling busy and distracted to feeling strong and capable.  The following steps will help you synchronize the body, mind, and nervous system. As you do, you will strengthen your capacity to bring all of your energy to the task at hand.

1. Be clear about your aim. As you tie your laces or pull on your gardening gloves, bring purpose to your activity by consciously guiding your session. As you climb on your bike you might say, “I am going to breathe deeply and notice the sensation of the breeze and the sun and the passing scenery.” As you enter the pool, you might say, “I’m going to pay attention to each stroke, and the sound and feel of the water surrounding me.”

2. Warm up (5 minutes). Try any simple moves— jumping jacks, stretching— and concentrate on matching the rhythm of your breath to your movement. By moving rhythmically, your brain activity, heart rate, and nervous system begin to align and stabilize.

3. Settle into a rhythm (10 to 15 minutes). Pick up the intensity, but continue to coordinate your breath and movement. If you have trouble doing this, then simply focus on your breathing for a few minutes. Eventually you’ll find your groove.

4. Challenge yourself (10 to 15 minutes). Try faster speed, more repetitions, or heavier weights, depending on what you are doing. Notice how alert and alive you feel when pushing yourself.

5. Cool down (5 minutes). Steadily slow down your pace until you come to a standstill. Notice the way your body feels. Drink in your surroundings.

6. Rest (5 minutes). Quietly recognize the sensations flowing in and around you. Practice naming what you feel and sense. 

Mindful Driving: Reducing Road Stress and Anxiety

There’s nothing like heavy traffic and impatient drivers to trigger anxiety, anger and stress.  Here are the steps to a simple behind-the-wheel practice that you can practice while driving.  Remember to turn off your phone!

1. First, take a deep breath. This simple, yet profound advice helps bring more oxygen into your body and widens the space between the stimulus of the traffic and your heightened stress reaction. In this space lies perspective and choice.

2. Ask yourself what you need. It may be in that moment that you need to feel safe, at ease or you just need some to be calm.  Understanding what you need will bring balance.

3. Give yourself what you need. If ease is what you need, you can scan your body for any tension (not a bad thing to do while driving in any case) and soften any tension or adjust your body as needed. You can sprinkle in some phrases of self-compassion, such as, “May I be at ease, may I feel safe, may I be happy.”

4. Look around and recognize that all the other drivers are just like you. Everyone on the road wants the same thing you do—to feel safe, have a sense of ease, and to be happy. Chances are you’ll see a number of fellow drivers who look a bit agitated, but you might also catch that one who is singing or actually smiling, and this will dissipate some of your own stress immediately. You can apply to all of them what you just offered to yourself, saying, “May you be at ease, may you feel safe, may you be happy.”

5. Take another deep breath. In 15 seconds or less, you can turn around your mood by applying these simple tips. When you feel the frustration of traffic rising, choose whatever you need to work on, and offer that condition to others. If you need to feel safe, say, “May I be safe, may you be safe, may we all be safe.” Breathe in, breathe out, you’ve sowed a seed of happiness.

Mindfulness Exercises to Practice Throughout Your Day 

Mindful Breathing

If you have ever caught yourself unconsciously holding your breath, you’re not alone. Often, when we are stressed out or mentally preoccupied with our thoughts, our breathing patterns become shallow, sometimes pausing all together.

To practice mindful breathing, set a timer for two minutes, close your eyes, and draw your attention to your breath. Without forcing your breath in any direction, simply witness the flow of air into and out of your lungs. Note any observable qualities or sensations. Liken your breath to an anchor, rooting you affirmatively into the present moment.

Mindful Body Scanning

At the end of the day, or at any other time you have an opportunity to rest flat on your back, use your physical body as a tool to practice mindfulness. This body scan can also be practiced in a seated position, though beginners might find it helpful to lie down.

Begin by settling into the space through mindful breath awareness and then draw your attention to your toes. Breathe into this area of the body, witnessing it exactly as it is, and then release your attention on the exhalation. Continue this witnessing and releasing as you scan the entire body. Start with your toes. Slowly scan toward the crown of your head. Then, hold your entire physical being in mindful awareness for another few breaths.

Listening with Mindfulness 

During any interaction we have in the day, we can practice mindful listening to help foster healthy, respectful, and compassionate relationships. As we become better listeners, we are likely to find that others also move in the same direction.

When another is speaking, see if you can tune in more attentively to what is being spoken. Notice the subtle energies that are unspoken. Listen to hear and to understand, rather than to respond, defend, or to be heard. Notice how your interpersonal relationships shift.

Feeling Emotions with Mindfulness 

Becoming mindful of our feelings is an exercise that can empower and deepen the relationship we have with ourselves, as well as those we have with others. Mindfulness of feelings requires that we pay attention and respond to our emotional reactions without judgment and with compassion,

When you react with emotions, try and notice where there is also tension in the body. Could the two be related? As you experience emotions moving through you, compassionately note them as energy currents of their own accord. Try not to become heavily attached to their presence. For example, if you are experiencing anger (I am angry), a reaction, respond to yourself (I am feeling anger).  

 
Mindfulness with Positive Self-Talk

Find a quiet place where you can sit undisturbed for 10 minute.

Imagine yourself sitting in a warm ray of sunshine.  Sit either in a comfortable chair or on the ground, where you can remain comfortably and without moving for the duration.  Sit with your hands open, facing upwards and relaxed.  Think of 3 positive affirmations you will repeat to yourself (I am kind, I am calm, I am relaxed, I am kind, etc.)

1.  Take 5 deep, cleansing breaths, breathing in with your nose and exhale out through your mouth.

2.  Imagine the warm sunlight filling your body, enveloping you.

3.  With each breath in, silently breath in your affirmations, one by one.  

4.  Continue to breath in and out, repeating your mantras with each breath one by one for at least 5 minutes.

5.  Open your eyes and slowly emerge back into the moment.  Notice how your body feels.

6.  Stand slowly, stretching your arms high above your head and continue to breath,

7.  Stretch your arms to your toes, hold there.  Feel your legs stretch,

8.  Now, stand fully upright and shake out your arms and legs.  

Practice Grounding

What is Grounding?

Grounding is a technique you can practice whenever you are feeling overwhelmed or anxious, or nytime you feel negative or challenging emotions.  These help you to clear your mind from unwanted memories or thoughts and to ‘ground’ you in the here and now.

A publication from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration(SAMHSA) outlines one approach on how to use grounding techniques.  You can practice this at home, sitting or standing.

1.  Place your feet firmly on the ground.
2. Say aloud the date and time.
3.  Take slow, deep breaths.
4.  Look around you,  what do you see around you?  (Your room, desk, pictures on the wall, outside the window)
5.  Describe what you see in your room or environment.  (This is my chair, my desk, etc,)  (I see trees outside, the wind is moving the branches)
6.  Remind yourself that you are in a safe place right now; touch your chair or wiggling the toes to remind yourself of the current reality

Decrease the Intensity of Your Feelings:

You can use visualization exercises or sensory diffusers. Some techniques include:

1.  visualizing turning down an emotional dial
2.  clenching your fist to hold on to the feelings, then letting them go when you release their fist

Use the  Five Senses:

When practicing grounding techniques, people can focus on the five senses: sight, touch, hearing, taste, and smell.

One useful grounding technique is the 5-4-3-2-1 technique. Some people suggest that this technique can help them through a panic attack.

The technique uses the five senses. A person should:

-search for five things they can see
-search for four things they can touch
-search for three things they can hear
-search for two things they can smell
-search for one thing they can taste

Other Sensory Grounding Techniques may include:

-smelling food or flowers
-holding an object, such as a rock or a leaf, in the hands
-listening to music or the noise of traffic outside

Some people may prefer practicing grounding techniques outside, since there is more to see, hear, touch, and smell outdoors. There is also more freedom to move around than indoors.  Just the simple act of movement in the environment can bring relief.

Breathing exercises

1.  Focusing on breathing, by consciously inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth.  Count to 5 with each inhale, and count to 5 with each exhale.

-You can enhance the focus of these breathing exercises by placing their hands on your abdomen and watching them move up and down with the breath.

 

 

 

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