Mental Wellness Challenge
Last week my challenge for you was to work to be present in your own life. To move through your day with intention, awareness and purpose. I hope that you enjoyed some success in my challenge and that you are turning off the auto pilot and taking the wheel.
This week I’d like to share a little about “mindfulness”. I know that the subject of mindfulness seems to be everywhere now. Some of that, unfortunately, is hype and some of that is simply the reality that the process seems to be bringing good things to mindfulness practitioners.
I started with mindfulness about 15 years ago in an effort to arrest some of my anxiety. At that time I had no idea that I was working with an ADHD brain and for me, anxiety was stealing my well being. If you haven’t struggled with anxiety, an anxiety disorder is near impossible to begin to understand. Being inside an anxiety attack was a nasty place for me to be, what would make it worse was that I could see that those people in my life that I was looking to for support simply didn’t/couldn’t understand what it was about. (I’ll post about my anxiety – what it’s like for me some other day.) Knowing that no one out there truly understood what it was like inside my head, I had to find something that could help me slow my mind down and give me a chance to shut the “fight/flight” reaction down or I’d end up in a full blown panic attack.
Mindfulness was suggested to me by a counsellor that I was seeing at that time. There weren’t the loads and loads of resources out there that there are now, so some research was required.
I was fortunate to learn about a doctor from the University Of Massachusetts Medical School. Jon Kabat-Zinn was a doctor looking to work with patients that were very ill and for which a great deal of the conventional medical treatments were no longer effective. Through his work, he created the “Stress Reduction Clinic” at UMASS and basically started a mental wellness revolution. I, for one, am very grateful for his work.
Kabat-Zinn’s work is rooted in Buddhism. At first, this Buddhism bit was a bit of a turn off, but when I looked at what the process was doing to help me, I understood that I didn’t need to study Buddhism to do mindfulness.
Kabat-Zinn has a saying that goes something like this, “So long as you are breathing, there is more right with you that there is wrong with you.” That saying or phrase turned into a mantra for me. I am still using it. It’s a tool in my toolbox of mental wellness resources that I use often.
I could take the space here to explain what mindfulness is and how it works. Kabat-Zinn has many short videos on the web in which he does a far better job of explaining his work, the process and even guiding a person through a mindfulness session than I could ever do – so I am going to point you towards those resources for more information. There are also oodles of books on the subject. In my opinion, Kabat-Zinn’s work is the place to go. He writes in a manner that is easily read, fun and interesting.
My challenge for the week!
- Day 1, watch an online videos about mindfulness. I will share some links below.
https://youtu.be/S7GM3YLa6BI Mindfulness for beginners
https://youtu.be/u4gZgnCy5ew Body scan
Further for Day 1. Try mindfulness on your own. Take a minute, just one minute, and intentionally settle down and practice some mindfulness. Use your phone, set a timer, and practice clearing your busy mind.
Concentrate for that one minute on your breathing – only your breathing. If thoughts come into your mind, and they will, acknowledge them and let them go. If other awareness comes to mind about your body, acknowledge it and let it go. When I do this, I have a safe space that I attend in my mind, I imagine a gentle creek flowing by and I let my thoughts, what ever they are, land on leaves and the creek carries the leaves downstream.
It’s tougher than it sounds.
- Day 2, watch another online video about mindfulness. I suggest the “Body Scan” video from above.
Try mindfulness on your own again. Take 2 minutes and intentionally, purposefully settle in and practice some mindfulness. Again, you can use your phone to set a timer. Don’t short change yourself. Set the time where you are all setup, in a quite, restful space, and then start.
- Day 3. Do 3 minutes of mindfulness today.
- Day 4. 5 minutes today.
- Day 5. 8 minutes today.
- Day 6. 13 minutes today.
- Day 7. 21 minutes today.
There’s more to this challenge that it seems. Ideally, one would be able to be mindful throughout their entire day. I’m not there, no where close – but I work at it.
If you do the two videos, and the practice, you should have a pretty good sense about what mindfulness is, what it can help with and an idea on how to do it. Mindfulness is a tool that gets better with use, gets stronger with application.
This challenge goes towards awareness, intention/purpose, commitment, and supports in my model. I sincerely believe that being authentically mindful is one of the most important gifts we can give ourselves.
So there it is, I challenge you!