Mindfulness is a buzzword that is found in many blogs and articles online. It is not a new concept, but rather a very old concept that is finally being recognized in many types of treatment as an essential component of healing and moving forward. Sherry Gaba’s group coaching program, www.wakeuprecovery.com, offers a component of meditation for her clients.
Think of mindfulness as the ability to move from just doing an action to knowing why that action is relevant, important and meaningful. It is a state of becoming critically conscious or aware of what you are doing, thinking and feeling as well as experiencing.
It is the opposite of how many people go through their day. They are on autopilot, which means they go through rote activities without thought or consideration. They don’t see the joy or beauty or negativity or pain; they just live in an in-between world of mental numbness.
To get out of mental numbness and get into mindfulness, meditation is often considered an important element. This can be a very simple meditation that includes controlled breathing while sitting in a comfortable chair in a quiet area of the room. It can also include simply making a point of checking into the world around you as you go through life.
To get started, here are some simple exercises anyone can do to add mindfulness to his or her life. For those in recovery, start slow and gradually build up to spending longer periods of time in a mindful state throughout the day.
- Right Now — set a timer on your phone or watch for random times throughout the day. When this timer goes off, spend 30 seconds or more in just experiencing what is going on in your body and your immediate environment. Stop and think about what you can smell, what you can hear, what surfaces you can touch and how they feel on the tips of your fingers. Think about the colors and the patterns in the world around you and accept what you see without judging or creating a personal opinion, just observe and let it go.
- Tap into thoughts — we are usually running a non-stop monologue in our heads. It may be positive and upbeat, or it may be negative and destructive. We are creators of our own reality. What we put out into the universe in terms of thoughts is what we will attract back to us. In Sherry Gaba’s group coaching program, www.wakeuprecovery.com, she applies concepts of the law of attraction with addiction to recovery to improve her clients’ mindset so they can achieve all that they desire in relationships, financial abundance, and health and wellness. Take the time to think about what you are thinking about when you notice your mood changes. If it is a negative thought, simply let it go, it is only a thought, not reality. By learning to identify and let go of these negative thoughts, you can replace them with positive, supportive self-talk.
- Breathing — controlled breathing is an important way to link the body, mind, and spirit in one action. Breathing is also completely in our control, unlike things that may happen to us in the world. If you notice yourself becoming tense, stressed, angry, frustrated, bored or overwhelmed, start by turning inward and controlling the breathing process. Start by breathing in through the nose, taking a long, deep inhale that goes down to the bottom of the lungs and pushes out the belly. Then, slowly release the breath in a long, continual exhale through the nose or the mouth. Make the exhalation longer than the inhale and then repeat for three or four breaths.
Breathing can be done with the eyes open or closed. Ideally, try to imagine the air coming into the body as full of calmness and peace, and the air that is exhaled releasing tension, stress, and anxiety. This helps to stay focused and calm, giving us control over our bodies and any negative emotions.