Written by: Alexandra Reustle, MA, Doctoral Intern
Mindfulness, in its simplest form, is the art of being present in the moment. Practicing this state of mind leads to all kinds of positive benefits both physically and mentally. Having to stay in our homes has given us the great gift of time. Time to sit, time to think, time to be present with ourselves and our loved ones. There are many ways that you can practice mindfulness: meditation, breathing exercises, having a conversation with someone without your phones, cooking, eating…every moment is an opportunity to pause and reflect on the now. Below I have listed some ideas and resources that will help you to mindfully engage, relax, and appreciate the moments we have been given during this season at home.
· Guided Diaphragmatic Breathing (5 minutes): Many people breathe wrong…in fact I can almost guarantee you are breathing incorrectly right now. To give yourself a test place one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly button…now breathe. What hand is moving most? If the one on your chest is moving up and down the most you are breathing thoracically and this is much less efficient and good for you than breathing from your belly (diaphragmatically). To belly breathe you will want to focus on filling your abdomen with air so that it expands out like a watermelon; as you exhale your belly should contract as you exhale. Try to inhale and exhale at equal intervals (around a count of 4) with around a 2 second pause in between. This link takes you to an article on breathing and has a guided audio and visual component that will help you pace your breathing: https://www.mindful.org/a-five-minute-breathing-meditation/
· Mindful Eating (depends on the size of your meal!): The most common activity regarding mindful eating is the raisin experience. You take a raisin and pretend you have never seen or heard of a raisin before. With this mindset think carefully about how it looks, feels, smells, and then finally how it tastes. In a sense, we are giving you permission to play with your food! Think about how children interact with food when they are first learning to eat…they do just about everything with that orange mush including seeing how far it will fly through the air. Now we aren’t recommending you throw your food (although you are certainly free to do so if you feel the need), but rather pointing out that babies have a wonderful way of being mindful and in awe of every moment. During your next snack or meal think about this practice and really mindfully engage with your food.
· Nature Walk (15-20 minutes): Being cooped up for too long is not great for anyone. With social distance in mind, take a short walk around your neighborhood and make a point to find three things in nature that you see and appreciate. It could be a leaf that has fallen on the sidewalk…as yourself what color is it? How does it feel? What is its shape? Really just let yourself be present with the leaf. Perhaps instead of a leaf it’s a bird, or the sensation of the wind against your cheeks. Whatever you choose to focus in on, take the time to be present with it and then move on to the next present moment. If your neighborhood is not walkable you can walk around your yard, go to a nearby park, or
even just sit on your front porch/patio and observe your surroundings. This is a great activity to do with children as well!
· Gratitude Journal (5-10 minutes): Take a few minutes to sit and think about what you are grateful for. This may be harder than it sounds, especially in a time when there is so much to be frustrated about, but this just means it is all the more important to do. To begin just try to think of five things you are thankful for. Sit with that gratitude for a few moments, write them down, and think about how it feels to express that gratitude. Perhaps call and share some of the things you are thankful for with loved ones. This is a great activity to do with little ones as well. Mindfully practicing gratitude is just as important as learning to say please and thank you!
· Guided Body Scan Meditation (15 minutes): A body scan is a type of mindful meditation that allows you to connect with your body in the present moment, feeling and experiencing both the pleasant and the unpleasant sensations as you work to release tension and become more in tune with yourself. This link takes you to an article on what a body scan is and has a guided audio that will walk you through the body scan: https://www.mindful.org/beginners-body-scan-meditation/