Mindfulness Tips to Feel Balanced in Mind, Body, and Spirit
“If you are depressed you are living in the past.
If you are anxious you are you are living in the future.
If you are at peace you are living in the present.”
The above quote by Lao Tau couldn’t be more accurate yet, learning to live in the moment is freakishly tough, is it not?! Our minds are just naturally busy, and when struggling with anxiety, depression, an eating disorder, or a past traumatic event, you can very much feel powerless when inundated with frequent, intense, and distressing repetitive thoughts.
Mindfulness techniques that shift your attention back to the present moment are helpful for alleviating any emotional, mental, or physical distress. Read on for some of my favorite tips and tricks for mind, body, and spirit, to help feel calm and balanced.
While Western culture is a little behind the times (this practice has been around since the 5th and 6th centuries), it’s never too late to get started! With the abundance of great applications on there that guide and walk you through the fundamentals of meditation, this mindfulness technique is low-cost, can be done nearly anywhere, and produces incredible effects as literally changes your brain, and helps to decrease unwanted repetitive thoughts. Some of my favorite apps that I use and/or suggest for clients are: Headspace, Calm, and Simple Practice.
Harvard came out with research supporting that even 10-15 minutes of meditation practice a day of meditation can produce mental, emotional, and physical benefits. A couple considerations when incorporating a meditation regime should include: consistency and a mindset of imperfection.
As far as consistency goes, many of the meditation applications have the option for you to set timers and reminders. Most people find success with incorporating a meditation into their morning routine as it can be easy for the events of the day to impact your ability and willingness to make time for meditation throughout the rest of the day or evening.
Secondly, You cannot meditate perfectly. Starting off, you might find it incredible frustrating as your mind is racing, but you simply note when you are caught up in your thoughts and gently return to focusing on breathing deeply and slowly. Giving yourself permission for your mind to be busy and to not to have the expectation to be the most Zen meditator there ever was is important.
This technique, originally involves similar processes involved in meditation and then kicks it up a notch. Though diffusion has the following purposes: reinforces the notion that thoughts are simply what your mind produces, but not all are necessarily truthful and or helpful; helps to decrease judgment; and normalizes the practice of reorienting yourself to the present moment.
One of my favorites is where you thank your mind for the thought and treat your mind and thoughts as separate entities. (Personally, I like to throw a little sarcastic tone in when I use it. ;) )
For example, as you are preparing to give an important presentation at work or school in a couple days and find yourself nearly in panic mode, you might say to yourself, “Thank you Anxious Mind. I appreciate you caring about how well I do, but freaking out about the presentation when I’m trying to enjoy a quality conversation with my partner at this really swanky restaurant just isn't really helpful.” Then you would simply attune yourself to whatever your partner is saying, and if/when the Anxious Mind makes itself known (even if is 30 seconds later), you respond yet again with similar sentiment as above .
There are too many different cognitive diffusion techniques to list in this post, but click here for more ideas.
Get Outside and Ground: For an instant physical, emotional, and mental ‘reset’, connect with nature, step away from your desk, and practice a mindful walking meditation. While getting outside is recommended so you can soak up some Vitamin D too for a temporary mood-lift, you can alter this practice to ground yourself inside.
1. Stand solidly on the ground. Spend a several moments noticing how your body feels. Start with the soles of the feet and upward, relaxing each body part as you become aware of it. Do not judge yourself if your shoulders, neck, jaw or whatever else is with you is tense; instead simply relax.
2. Begin to walk slowly and focus awareness of how your body feels now after intentionally relaxing it.
3. Notice your mental and emotional state. Is your mind busy or calm? Chaotic, cloudy, or focused? Notice your emotions: are you frustrated, overwhelmed, or relatively content etc.? Simply notice and name the feelings and let them dissipate as you continue walking. Becoming aware of your current mental and emotional states bolsters your ability to focus in the present moment.
4. Focus on your surroundings and what you see, hear, smell, feel, etc. Random thoughts will inevitably arise. Choose to acknowledge any thoughts and let them pass.
5. End the walk by literally taking your shoes off and getting grounded and sitting in a patch of grass (or sitting in an office chair if inside). Pay attention to the sensations of the grass/floor against your feet, the sun and/or wind on your skin (or AC if inside).
6. Continue your day feeling more invigorated and focused!
Yoga is another incredible mindfulness practice. It forces us to get out of our mind and into our bodies and the present moment. Yoga is the act of focusing our attention on the way our body feels, the content of our mind, the quality of our breath, and helps us to move from being stuck in our heads and enter into what is the ’now’. In addition to cultivating present-moment awareness, continued practice helps to reprogram your body and brain’s physical and emotional response to stress.
Have a busy day and can't make it to an hour-long yoga class? Can you find some wall space to use and shut your office door for 5 minutes? Here’s my favorite pose that literally helps you get grounded and calm.
Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose (or supported Viparita Karani pose)
Yup, it’s exactly how it sounds. Click here for detailed steps from Yoga Journal. It does not require any super crazy yogi technical skills, yet is super effective in activating the parasympethic (i.e. calming) nervous system which then allows your mind to slow down.
A basic sequence, such as Sun Salutations, are great for beginners and a great way to get centered. Click here for step-by-step instructions from Yoga Journal.
4 X 4 Breathing:
An easy, inconspicuous, and effective grounding technique (even Navy SEALS use this method). Use this when you notice you are lost in thought, anxious, or emotionally out-of-sorts.
Take a deep inhale for 4 seconds, (as if you were going to blow a balloon) followed by a deep exhale through your nose or lips for 4 seconds. Continue this cycle for one minute and your note how you feel after. That’s it! That’s all there is to it. You can continue this and play your favorite song that instantly relaxes you, all the while focusing on that steady pace of breathing in and out for 4 counts at a time. Not only do you feel yourself calm down, you can see the physical changes too (less tense muscles, slower heart rate, etc).
Consider adding a gratitude practice for an emotional ‘reset’. You can even do this while lying in bed in the morning and/or evening. Find 3 things you can be grateful for; it can be as simple as having a good cup of coffee or having noticed less traffic on the way to work. The act of being grateful not only can help to shift your awareness to the present but, with continued practice may help train the brain to be more sensitive to the positive things in your life, thus leading to improved mental health over time.
Journaling: A classic therapeutic tool, the act of writing out your thoughts helps to empty your mind. You can find journals with specific prompts (Pinterest is an awesome resource if needing inspiration) or you can just do a 'brain dump' or free-write what exactly is on your mind. Allowing yourself to identify thoughts and feelings as they are right then and there allows for an emotional release. It also can help you clearly see if there are action-based steps you can take to help your situation at hand.
These are just a few of my favorite tried and true mindfulness techniques that are helpful in training your brain and bringing you back to the now. Remember, continued mindfulness practice is what is key so you can reap healing benefits and feel balanced in mind, body, and spirit!