A few posts back I wrote about having a critical inner voice. Mine is pretty chatty and frankly, a little too damn critical for my liking. Somebody suggested to me the other day that she doesn’t just have a critical voice…
She has a whole committee!
I love that thought. I can really relate.
Maybe you can too?
And, I’m sure you haven’t escaped all the talk about how great meditation is for you. It’s been doing the rounds of late.
‘Mindfulness’ is the buzzword on everybody’s lips.
I don’t know if you’re anything like me, but meditation just ain’t my bag. And I’m a little bit tired of meditation gurus and aficionados telling me I should give it another go. Frankly, just the idea of meditating sets my critical inner voice into a spiral of negative self-talk.
My view is that if merely thinking about meditation is enough to get me anxious, then it isn’t going to work for me!
Don’t get me wrong – I am most definitely an advocate of mindfulness
Here’s the thing, though… You don’t have to meditate to be mindful. Meditation is merely a subset of mindfulness.
And, if we agree that mindfulness is a mental state of openness, awareness and focus, there are many, many ways of achieving a state of mindfulness during the course of the day without resorting to meditation.
I want to share some of the ones I am currently trying on for size
“Practicing regular, mindful breathing can be calming and energizing and can even help with stress-related health problems ranging from panic attacks to digestive disorders.”
– Andrew Weil, M.D.
Andrew Weil is one of the first ‘health gurus’ I can remember being aware of. He is one of the earlier western trained medical practitioners to also embrace eastern philosophies. I remember my Mum talking to me about some of his suggestions on natural health years ago. Perhaps I should have taken more notice back then… I’m certainly taking notice now.
Dr. Weil has a great breathing exercise called the 4-7-8 technique. His video explains the technique so much more comprehensively than I can, I encourage you to check it out.
Alternatively, my mate Emma over at The Bacon Mum, has very recently introduced me to Crocodile Breathing, a yoga technique for teaching and diaphragmatic breathing.
It’s quite straight forward. Start by lying face down with your forehead on the back of your hands. This is to make sure your neck is in alignment with the rest of your spine. Next, breathe in through your nose and deep into your tummy – you’ll feel your stomach push out into the ground. You may feel that your lower back rises and falls, with your inhale and exhale as well. Once you have a comfortable inhale you simply exhale and begin again.
Breathing deeply, or diaphragmatic ‘belly breathing’, can help to lower cortisol and signal to your nervous system to ‘rest and digest’ as opposed to ‘fight or flight’.
Breath work is proving to be a favourite mindful technique for me. It’s easy, convenient, can be quick and is free. Everyone should be doing it, I reckon’!
One of the best ways I know to ‘get present’ is to laugh. There’s a good reason they say that ‘laughter is the best medicine’.
Laughing relaxes the whole body. A really good belly laugh relieves physical tension and stress. It can leave your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes.
Laughing boosts your immune system. It decreases your stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, which improves your resistance to disease.
Laughing triggers the release of endorphins, which are your body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins can even temporarily relieve pain.
Laughter protects the heart. Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.
Find someone who makes you laugh and spend some time with them. You’ll feel better and you’ll be practicing mindfulness.
If you think back to what you loved doing as a seven year old, I’ll bet it involved some sort of creative play. It’s very hard not to be in the moment when we are engaging the creative side of our brain.
I always loved colouring in as a child, so I’ve started playing around with some adult colouring in books. This one’s my current favourite – it has the added bonus of being a series of postcards…
To be honest, initially I found it a little bit, ummmm – well, hokey? The idea of colouring in just didn’t seem a particularly useful application of my time. Then I figured out that this is actually the whole point. Sometimes, I can be a little slow!
Gratitude is an emotion where we express appreciation for what we have – as opposed to, say, on what we want. Gratitude is getting more and more attention as a facet of positive psychology.
Studies now show that we can intentionally cultivate gratitude, and increase our well-being and happiness in the process. Gratefulness – especially expression of it to others – is associated with increased energy, optimism, and empathy.
I’m not one of those super organised peeps who keeps a journal. If I were, I’d be including a few lines on gratitude every day. Instead, I’ve added it to my morning routine. When I sit down at my desk each morning, before I look at my emails, I take a few moment to reflect on what I’m grateful for (while breathing!)
Grounding (also known as earthing) is the practice of making direct physical contact with the surface of the earth. This can be done by walking barefoot outside.
While the idea of grounding may seem a bit too ‘woo woo’ for some, there is mounting evidence that our modern lifestyles are leading us to be disconnected from contact with the earth, which results in physical dysfunction and unwellness. The benefits of grounding are mainly attributed to the reduction of chronic inflammation.
According to Chris Kresser, “Researchers have observed improved sleep, decreased inflammation, pain alleviation, stress reduction, and even the normalization of the cortisol day-night profile after subjects were exposed to grounding treatment.”
The easiest and least expensive way to reap the benefits of grounding is to walk barefoot outside, lie down on the grass or the sand, or even (apparently) to sleep outside on the ground. This last one seems a little extreme to me in suburban Sydney in the winter-time!
Every time I walk the dog now, I’m trying to remember to ditch the shoes and get my tootsies in contact with the grass. Of course, if I’m in the dog park, I do keep my eyes peeled!
And, I’m trying to head down for a barefoot beach walk a couple of times a week.
THANK YOU for this post. I get tired of everyone saying that mediation is answer. Yes, of course it probably actually is the answer, but really how many of us actually meditate? Most of us just aren’t on the Buddha-track. I love your list of alternatives. And interestingly, many of these enable us to get meditative without meditating…
Lovely Petra – how are you?
I’ve recently had a bit of a rude awakening about ensuring that a regular mindfulness practice is part of my daily routine. Do you have a favourite?
Love love love this post! I think I am officially developing a fan crush on you.
Phew! Unrequited fan-crushes are so yesterday! 🙂
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