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This is Thanksgiving week … the week some of us are very thankful that we don’t live in the same city as our relatives. So I’m calling in the experts.
My friend, Elisha Goldstein, who writes the “Mindfulness and Psychotherapy” blog on PsychCentral.com, offers readers like myself, who are having difficulty with a formal meditation practice, several quick tips for mindful living that can be implemented throughout the day. He writes in his post, “Hectic Life? Quick Tips for Mindful Living” that “even without the time and place in life to set up some formal practice, from the minute you get up in the day to the moment you lay your head on the pillow there is opportunity to engage mindfulness as a way of life, opening you up to greater focus, calm, and peace.”
For this week’s “Mindful Monday,” I thought I’d list some of the easy mindfulness practices Elisha offers in his blog:
In his blog “Difficult Emotions: One Approach You’ll Want to Try,” Dr. Goldstein writes:
In the mindfulness circles the acronym R.A.I.N has floated around to support people in dealing with difficult emotions. It has been found in Tara Brach’s book Radical Acceptance, Jack Kornfield has said it, and you will find it the upcoming Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook that I have co-authored with Bob Stahl, Ph.D (February, 2010). Here is a sneak peek:
“R” is to recognize when a strong emotion is present. “A” is to allow or acknowledge that it is indeed there. “I” is to investigate and bring self-inquiry to the body, feelings, and mind, and “N” is to non-identify with what’s there. This non-identification is very useful in that it helps to deflate the story and cultivates wise understanding in the recognition that the emotion is just another passing mind state and not a definition of who you are. Just like seeing a movie, standing back and watching the actors play out their dramas, by non-identifying with your story and seeing it as impermanent, this will help assist in loosening your own tight grip of identification. Utilizing R.A.I. N. as a practice can help you bring space to be with things as they are and grow in deeper understanding of what drives, underlies or fuels our fears, anger, and sadness.
Turning into our emotions can feel a bit foreign since most of us live in such a pain denying culture. Isn’t it time to begin acknowledging stress, anxiety or pain rather than suppressing, repressing, or all-too-quickly medicating it? Can we learn to view these challenges as a rite of passage instead of running away from them?
Another tip to weave mindfulness into your daily schedule: before work, during lunch, before you walk into your home in the evening, or after you get the kids to bed at night. Writes Goldstein in his post “Stress Got You Down?”:
Creating space to come down from the worried mind and back into the present moment has been shown to be enormously helpful to people. When we are present we have a firmer grasp of all our options and resources which often make us feel better. Next time you find your mind racing with stress, try the acronym S.T.O.P.:
S – Stop what you are doing, put things down for a minute.
T – Take a breath. Breathe normally and naturally and follow your breath coming in and of your nose. You can even say to yourself “in” as you’re breathing in and “out” as you’re breathing out if that helps with concentration.
O – Observe your thoughts, feelings, and emotions. You can reflect about what is on your mind and also notice that thoughts are not facts and they are not permanent. If the thought arises that you are inadequate, just notice the thought, let it be, and continue on. Notice any emotions that are there and just name them. Recent research out of UCLA says that just naming your emotions can have a calming effect. Then notice your body. Are you standing or sitting? How is your posture? Any aches and pains.
P – Proceed with something that will support you in the moment. Whether that is talking to a friend or just rubbing your shoulders.
Walking is an easy way to incorporate mindfulness into your day. Heck, even walking to the frig to grab some milk provides 60 seconds of reflection time. So why not squeeze out the mindfulness potential? In his post, “4 Ways to Walk (Mindfully) into Mental Health,” Dr. Goldstein lists four ways we can apply the simple act of walking to mindfulness.
Appreciation – If you are fortunate enough to have the ability to walk, try and remember, it took you over a year to learn how to walk and these legs are often the unsung heroes that take you to and fro day in and day out. Thank your legs for all their efforts.
Grounding – Bring your attention to the sensations of your feet and legs as the heel touches the ground, then the base of the foot, then the toes, and then they lift. You can actually say to yourself, “heel, foot, toes, lift.” This is a way to connect to the action of walking in the present moment.
Open Awareness – Walk slightly slower and begin to open your awareness to all your senses one by one. Sight, sound, taste, feeling, smell. See what is around you, listen to the sounds, taste the air or whatever is in your mouth, feel the warmth, coolness, or breeze on your cheeks, smell the air. Then stop for a moment and see if you can take in all of the senses.
Mantra – As I mentioned in an earlier blog, you can also recite some sayings while taking a few steps. For example, take a few steps and during an in breath say to yourself, “breathing in, I have arrived, breathing out, I am home” or “breathing in, I calm my body, breathing out, I relax”. Or make up your own sayings.
I actually use this one a lot. Because when the kids were young, my time in the shower was, honest to God, the only time I had to myself. So I was not so green and blasted the hot water for a good five to minutes, pretending I was under a tropical waterfall in Hawaii. In his post, “Turn on the Shower and Reduce Your Stress Today,” Dr. Goldstein writes:
What would happen if instead of thinking about all the plans you had to catch up on while you were in the shower, you took a pause, and then brought your nose to the smell of the soap…and again, just exploring the scent of it with your nose…What would happen if you then brought your attention to just feeling the sensation of the warm water against your skin and the feeling of goose bumps that might be there from the contrast of coming in from the cold? Oh…then the mind drifts back again about who you need to call at work, why are you doing this stupid practice, the upcoming meetings, when you need to pick up your kids, what you need to buy for dinner, as you begin to speed up and the tension mounts. What would happen if you noticed this, said to yourself “there goes my mind again”, and then brought your attention back into the shower where you were right now. How might your experience be different? How might your mood be different when getting out of the shower? Would you be more or less reactive with your family, roommates, or whoever you came in contact with next?