Category Archives: Mindfulness

10 Actionable Ways You Can Incorporate Mindfulness In Your Life

Mindfulness: it’s one of those trendy buzz words that have been gaining a lot of popularity in the health and fitness world, like kale or alkaline or “ancient grains.” But what is it REALLY?

I used to think you could only practice mindfulness if you were a hip and fully bendable yogi, fresh off your latest meditation retreat where you and the Kundalini crew ate exclusively vegan tofu and discussed tips on optimizing your DIY composting toilet-that’s-really-a-bucket.

But after taking a mindfulness quiz in which I scored extremely poorly (the quiz literally told me to “Think again”, which made me laugh sheepishly), I realize that one can easily practice a little bit of mindfulness in everyday situations.
I’m a firm believer of practice makes perfect, and that holds true for mindfulness as well! Here are 10 actionable ways one can begin practicing mindfulness:

1. Instead of scarfing down your food, chew with purpose! Mindful eating is a great place to start because, hey, WE ALL EAT. Consider the texture, taste, and smell of your food. If it’s one of your favorite dishes, relish the act of eating it! Why exactly is it your favorite dish? Do you have any fond memories associated with it?

2. Be truly cognizant of your surroundings while driving. For many people, we go on auto-pilot during our commute. Change this by practicing mindful driving: feel your palms on the steering wheel or your foot on the pedal. Listen to the cars around you.

3. Be aware of your breathing. Feel your lungs slowly expand in and out and listen to the rhythm of your heart beat.

4. Feel the textures of your clothing as you wear them. Are you wearing a particularly soft hoodie? A silky blouse? The rough denim on your legs? How do these articles of clothing make you feel?

5. Notice your mood, and acknowledge any shifts in emotions. Do you feel hungry? Nostalgic? Melancholic? Happy? Anxious? Impatient? Why do you feel that way?

6. Set a 5 minute alarm on your phone. Then, for the next five minutes, practice concentrating on an object in the room. It can be a pen, a potted plant, anything. Be fully aware of that object: how it feels, its functions, how it is built or created, etc. If your mind starts to waver or you become distracted, practice focusing your attention back on the object. Keep at it until the five minutes is up.

7. Practice walking meditation. You can do this while walking in the parking lot, grocery shopping or even just taking a walk down the street outside of your house. Feel your legs carry you from one place to another. Feel your foot stepping on the pavement or floor. Feel the muscles of your body acting in unison to transport you to a different location.

8. Go to a busy area, like a park or a restaurant, and listen to the sounds around you. It can be a bird chirping in the free, a dog barking in the distance, your neighbor’s wind chimes. Listen to the different pitches of each sound and focus entirely on hearing the environment around you.

9. Pay attention to seemingly mundane or normal tasks – even the little inconsequential things that you do on a regular basis. Feel the smooth glass on your smartphone, or listen to the rhythmic clickety-clack of your keyboard as you type an email.

10. Embrace stress and acknowledge how it affects you physically and mentally. When you feel stress, become aware of the physical changes that are taking place in your body that have resulted because of the stress. Perceive the stress in your body as energy that will allow you to accomplish the task at hand. Accept the stress, and mindfully channel it towards productivity.

This is by no means an exhaustive list: there are hundreds of other ways one can practice mindfulness. With enough hard work and effort, you’ll be on your way towards becoming a more mindful and self-aware individual!

About the Author: Nicole Clarke is a content writer in the addiction treatment and holistic health niche. When she isn’t blogging, she is probably spending time with her family or online shopping! She discovered the benefits of mindfulness at the beginning of her journey with sobriety from substance abuse. Please reach out to her on Twitter at @NicoleHClarke!

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Mindfulness and Summer Allergies

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think about summer?

For me it’s seasonal allergies.

Now don’t get me wrong. There are many things I enjoy about this time of the year. Those of you who follow me on Twitter have probably noticed my tweets about enjoying the sunshine and all of the local fruits and vegetables that are ripening now. It’s definitely not all bad news.

With that being said, this is still a pretty sniffly season for me. A field of flowers might look picturesque to someone who isn’t allergic to them, but I’d sneeze my way through that sort of experience if I were to go wander around in that meadow. Breathing in that much pollen isn’t exactly my idea of a good time.

Unfortunately, this has been a particularly bad year for my seasonal allergies so far. Whether it was the unusually warm periods of this past winter we had or some other factor, the plants in Ontario have been growing wildly since spring began.   I’ve been taking medication for my allergies as often as possible for the last couple of months, and I don’t see that ending anytime soon.

The beautiful thing about mindfulness is how it changes my approach to these itchy, sneezy days.

Acknowledgement without Judgement

Right now my nose is congested, my eyes are itchy, and I have a mild headache.

It took me a long time to learn how to acknowledge the things my body was feeling without immediately putting negative labels on them and jumping to conclusions about what would happen with them next. Honestly, I didn’t see how doing such a thing could possibly make a difference when I first heard of it.

The transition was so gradual that the only thing I can say about how it happened is that it started when I began to compare my assumptions about the future with what actually occurred.

Often, I was completely wrong about how a particular situation would turn out. A mild headache would fade away instead of becoming more painful. One particular itchy day didn’t necessarily mean that the entire week would pass by under a haze of sneezing fits.

This isn’t to say that acknowledging discomfort without jumping to conclusions is easy. There are still times I struggle with noticing molehills without assuming they’re going to turn into mountains any second now, but the more I practice this the easier it does become.

No Such Thing as a Perfect Time of the Year

My seasonal allergies activate during some points of the year and (obviously) cause few if any symptoms during those times when it’s cold and snowy outside.

Strawberries, one of my favourite foods, are in season and on sale at the grocery store from May to July. Other fruits and vegetables make appearances on my dinner plate when they’re in season. I relish the chance to eat as much of them as I can before the local supplies of those crops end for the year. As grateful as I am for the opportunity to eat fresh produce year-round, there is something special about the taste of a fruit or vegetable that was grown much closer to home.

Thunderstorms, snowstorms, and other types of weather appear and disappear throughout the year. If I can stay home and watch them subtly – or not so subtly – change the landscape, I can find a lot of beauty in the ways they soften the edges of a building, illuminate the sky with a bolt of lightning,  or wash away the small bits of trash that accumulate in every city eventually.

There’s no such thing as a perfect time of the year. Every season has its benefits and drawbacks. The more you can remain in the moment, the easier it is to see this.

This, too, Shall Pass

A few months ago, I was impatiently* awaiting the true beginning of spring. Toronto continued to receive snowstorms and cold weather long after the spring equinox had technically already occurred, and I was dreadfully tired of the short days and icy sidewalks.

Now that we’ve had a few days where the temperatures soared well into the 30s Celsius (90s Fahrenheit, for my American readers), it’s getting a little more difficult to remember what those  chilly times were like back in April.

Sometimes the world seems to change both slowly and all at once.

But this, too, shall pass.

*See! I told you haven’t completely mastered acknowledging sensations without judging them.

What helps you to remember to remain mindful? If you have seasonal allergies, how they are doing this year?

Remaining Mindful on Social Media

Social media is a double-edged sword. On the positive side, I’ve met a lot of incredible people on Twitter and other sites that I never would have otherwise crossed paths with. I’m grateful for the opportunity to make friends from so many different parts of the world. They’ve opened my eyes to everything from social customs to tasty snacks that I would have probably never heard of if I hadn’t decided to sign up for accounts on those sites.

However, there are times when I’ve grow tired of the argumentative and dramatic cultures that have arisen on these platforms. There’s something about typing words out on keyboard that removes some people’s filters. They have the urge to say things online that most folks would never say out loud in front of everyone.

Some of my friends who are also interested in mindfulness have reduced their time spent on social media because of this. Honestly, I don’t blame them. I’ve cut back certain aspects of my social media usage, too. The gap between what these sites could be and what they actually are is simply too big to ignore in certain cases.

With that being said, something interesting has been happening to me on the various social media sites I use now that I’ve been practicing mindfulness regularly for a while.

For one, I’ve started to become hyper-aware of how I feel before, during, and after I use each one of these sites. When a particular leader of one of the most powerful countries in the world goes off on yet another prejudiced, incoherent rant online, my timelines fill up with people arguing over, joking about, and attempting to decipher what that person was really trying to say.

It’s not my place to tell others how to react to the things he says, of course. That’s not what this post is about at all.

What I am talking about is focusing on that moment when my body and mind begin to react to what I’m seeing or hearing. I feel conflicting needs to always know what terrible thing he’s planning to do next while simultaneously wanting a long, quiet break from all of that foolishness. It’s difficult at times to know when to lean in for more information and when to pull back and watch cute animal videos or take a walk instead.

This isn’t even to mention all of the other destructive things happening on various social media sites: mass outrage over something someone said or did; harassment; bullying; doxxing; pictures and stories about things that either never actually happened or that are so heavily edited it’s impossible to tell what’s really going on in them.

Filtering

The beautiful thing about mindfulness is that it doesn’t always have to be something that comes from within. There is definitely something to be said for learning how to focus in a noisy or distracting environment, of course, but there is also value in filtering out certain types of stimuli when such things are possible.

To give you another example of what I’m talking about, Ontario is having a provincial election today. (If you live here, go vote as soon as you finish reading this post!)

Many of my friends from this province have been talking about election issues and which party they think they’ll be supporting this time around.

I’ve been playing around with my filters during this election cycle. Sometimes I want to follow every hashtag and account related to the four major parties in Ontario. On other days, I only want the highlights or maybe even nothing at all. I decided who I’m voting for so long ago that there’s really no need for me to continue entertaining the various options.

Saying No

Sometimes saying no to certain hashtags, websites, groups, or users is the best possible response to something that is such contradictory mixture of helpful and harmful content.

I used to have a harder time letting go of stuff that

One of the beautiful things I’ve learned through the practice of mindfulness is how to say “no, thanks” without making a value judgement on a particular thing.

I’m not saying that everyone should mute that hashtag or stop visiting that site. If others find them useful, good for them.

They’re simply not things that work for me right now, anymore, or ever again.

Trimming the Excess

Yes, this means that I’m visiting fewer social media sites than I used to.

I’m no Luddite, but I do see the value in trimming away the things in life that no longer bring you joy. Why balance four or five accounts if they pull you out of what is happening at this very moment and make you worry about what might happen in all of the moments to come?

This isn’t something that makes sense to me, especially for ordinary people who aren’t celebrities or public figures. Again, this isn’t a guide on how everyone should live. I don’t judge others for updating Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Youtube, Google+, and a half-dozen other accounts every day.

Some people are content doing that.

It’s simply not something that brings peace to my life, however.

Respond

What have your experiences with the various social media sites been like? How do you remain mindful while using them?

Related posts:

What Twitter Taught Me About Mindfulness.

10 Quotes I Like About Mindfulness and Meditation

This year I’ve slowly gotten into the habit of collecting quotes about mindfulness and meditation that speak to me. Here are ten of my favourite ones so far. Most of them are serious. One is downright snarky in a funny, not cruel, sort of way.

A few of them might appear to contradict each other at first, but they will end up in the same place if you give yourself a chance to think about what they’re saying.

“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”
Thich Nhat Hanh,

 

“If you just sit and observe, you will see how restless your mind is. If you try to calm it, it only makes it worse, but over time it does calm, and when it does, there’s room to hear more subtle things – that’s when your intuition starts to blossom and you start to see things more clearly and be in the present more. Your mind just slows down, and you see a tremendous expanse in the moment. You see so much more than you could see before. It’s a discipline; you have to practice it.”
Walter Isaacson

 

“Sometimes you need to sit lonely on the floor in a quiet room in order to hear your own voice and not let it drown in the noise of others.”
Charlotte Eriksson

 

“Mindfulness practice means that we commit fully in each moment to be present; inviting ourselves to interface with this moment in full awareness, with the intention to embody as best we can an orientation of calmness, mindfulness, and equanimity right here and right now.”
Jon Kabat-Zinn

 

“I believe that reading and writing are the most nourishing forms of meditation anyone has so far found. By reading the writings of the most interesting minds in history, we meditate with our own minds and theirs as well. This to me is a miracle.”
Kurt Vonnegut

 

“Mindfulness isn’t difficult, we just need to remember to do it.”
Sharon Salzberg

 

“Sitting still is a pain in the ass.”
Noah Levine

 

“Meditation practice is like piano scales, basketball drills, ballroom dance class. Practice requires discipline; it can be tedious; it is necessary. After you have practiced enough, you become more skilled at the art form itself. You do not practice to become a great scale player or drill champion. You practice to become a musician or athlete. Likewise, one does not practice meditation to become a great meditator. We meditate to wake up and live, to become skilled at the art of living.”
Elizabeth Lesser

 

“You cannot control the results, only your actions.”
Allan Lokos

 

“Mindfulness meditation doesn’t change life. Life remains as fragile and unpredictable as ever. Meditation changes the heart’s capacity to accept life as it is. It teaches the heart to be more accommodating, not by beating it into submission, but by making it clear that accommodation is a gratifying choice.”
Sylvia Boorstein

 

If you have a favourite quote on this topic, I’d love to hear it!

Unguided Meditation Update #2

Last month in this series on my experiments with unguided meditation, I mentioned wanting to try sitting up during my sessions. Meditation is something I’d previously been doing lying down due to a minor injury that made sitting in certain positions uncomfortable. Click on the link above if you want a refresher on why I chose that goal.

Before I jump into today’s post in detail, let’s talk about the chairs in my house and how they’re related to this topic. Technically, both of our chairs are actually meant to be used outdoors. They’re not traditional chairs. Think of camping furniture instead of anything you’d find in a fancy dining room.

My spouse and I chose them because they can be folded up and put away when not in use. Since our apartment is a small one, we use the same areas of it for many different activities throughout the week. Anything that can be folded up and put away when not in use is always folded up and put away when we’re finished with it.

These chairs work well for most of our purposes, but they’re not designed for someone to sit up straight and meditate in them.Their backs are soft and flexible, and they mold to your body as you shift position.  In other words, you’re supposed to sit back and slouch in them.

Sitting Meditation

The reason why I went into so much detail about our tiny home and unconventional chair situation is so you could better imagine what meditating while sitting upright is like for me.

I had three options when I started doing it a few weeks ago: sit on a chair that encourages slouching; sit on our wood floor; sit on the bed.

Due to my sore muscles at the time, I chose option three. It seemed like it would be the least likely one to cause me even more discomfort than I was already feeling.

I’m going to be very honest with all of you here. Not all of my meditation sessions have involved sitting up since my last post in this series. In the beginning, that position was simply too uncomfortable on some days. The only way to do it was to lie down.  On other days, I waited until so late in the evening to meditate that I was too tired to do so sitting up.

The general trend in my life has been towards meditating while sitting up and away from meditating while lying down, though. I expect it to continue in the future as long as I can avoid future injuries.

The Results

In my experience, meditating works much better in the sitting position. It’s easier for me to stay focused on the task at hand when I’m sitting up straight. There have been a few times in the past when I accidentally fell asleep while meditating lying down due to how relaxed I was on my soft bed. This isn’t something I’ve come close to experiencing while sitting up.

There’s also something to be said for creating a routine and sticking to the same environment as much as possible from one session to the next. When I sit in a cross-legged position in my quiet room, I know it’s time to relax and meditate. My body has begun to recognize that this is something I only do during that time of the day since it isn’t how I normally sit.

When I was meditating lying down, there wasn’t as much of a difference between that and lying down to go to sleep or to watch a TV show. I like having a sharper contrast between all of those activities.

While I’m still in the early stages of this adjustment to my routine, I’m pleased with how it’s working in general. As I mentioned in the previous section of this post, I am planning to meditate sitting up even more often in the future. It was definitely the right decision for me, although I am glad that meditating while lying down worked for me when I wasn’t able to do this position.

Next Up: Meditating for Longer Periods of Time

My goal for the next month is to begin meditating for longer periods of time. My sessions are only about five minutes long right now. This was a time limit I originally set due to the pain and muscle stiffness that I’d been dealing with earlier this year. Sometimes it was a stretch to even make it that far, to tell you the truth.

Now that I’m doing better physically, I’d like to double that number at bare minimum. If it’s possible, I may even aim for a longer time period than that. I’ll let you know next month.

If you’re a fellow meditator, how is it going for you?

Unguided Meditation Update #1

A few weeks ago, I blogged about experimenting with unguided meditation. Now that I’ve been doing it regularly for a few weeks, I thought it would be a good time to give an update on how it’s been going. When I talk about unguided meditation, I’m not talking about meditating in perfect silence. That is… Read More

Experimenting with Unguided Meditation

Today’s post is going to be a pretty short one. As I’ve mentioned here before, I don’t believe in padding out blog posts to reach a specific word count. Sometimes I need a few hundred words to make my point, and at other times I require 1200 or more of them. Last month I talked… Read More

5 Reasons Why You Should Become a Reviewer for Long and Short Reviews

Today’s post is a little off the beaten path when compared to the topics I normally blog about here, but it’s something that I’ve been thinking about discussing with my followers for a while now. First of all, you might be asking yourself what this site is and why I’m telling you about it. Well, Long… Read More

An Update on My Difficulties with Meditation

Wow, it’s been six weeks since I last blogged about meditation. I knew it had been a while when I first began working on today’s post, but I had no idea that so much time has passed. The last time I blogged about this topic, I talked about the possibility of taking a break from… Read More