For a month and a half we have talked about mindfulness and how it can help you with weight loss, with eating, with exercise, with judgement of yourself and others, and overcoming obstacles. This week we are going to practice what we preach. All you have for this week is to choose at least one of the three mindfulness challenges below and complete it. You can also do all three- whatever you are interested in! Find one that fits your personality, likes, and lifestyle. Then try to keep it as part of your weekly ‘exercise’ plan.
Your Moment of Zen: Mindfulness Exercise Challenge
Why It’s Important: Becoming mindful is a practice that helps us better cope with the difficult thoughts and feelings that cause us stress and anxiety in everyday life. With regular practice of mindfulness exercises, rather than being led on auto-pilot by emotions influenced by negative past experiences and fears of future occurrences, we harness the ability to root the mind in the present moment and deal with life’s challenges in a clear-minded, calm, assertive way.
Your Challenge: Choose 1, 2, or all 3 of the following mindfulness exercises. Try completing them multiple times throughout the week and possibly even part of your weekly activity.
- Start by breathing in and out slowly. One breath cycle should last for approximately 6 seconds.
- Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, letting your breath flow effortlessly in and out of your body.
- Let go of your thoughts. Let go of things you have to do later today or pending projects that need your attention. Simply let thoughts rise and fall of their own accord and be at one with your breath.
- Purposefully watch your breath, focusing your sense of awareness on its pathway as it enters your body and fills you with life.
- Then watch with your awareness as it works work its way up and out of your mouth and its energy dissipates into the world.
Mindful eating has been a goal of this challenge all along, so this exercise is perfect if you still are struggling with it.
- Breathe before eating. We often move from one task right to the other without pausing or taking a breath. By pausing, we slow down and allow for a more calm transition to our meals. Bring your attention inward by closing your eyes, and begin to breathe slowly in and out of your belly for eight to 10 deep breaths before you start your meal.
- Listen to your body. After breathing, bring your awareness to the physical sensations in your belly. On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being that you don’t feel any physical sensation of hunger and 10 being that you feel very hungry, ask yourself “How hungry am I?” What physical sensations tell you that you are hungry or not hungry (emptiness in stomach, shakiness, no desire to eat, stomach growling, etc.)? Try not to think about when you last ate or what time it is, and really listen to your body, not your thoughts.
- Eat according to your hunger. Now that you are more in touch with how hungry you are, you can more mindfully choose what to eat, when to eat, and how much to eat. This simple practice can help you tune in to your real needs.
- Practice peaceful eating. At your next meal, slow down and continue to breathe deeply as you eat. It’s not easy to digest or savor your food if you aren’t relaxed.
- If you don’t love it, don’t eat it. Take your first three bites mindfully, experience the taste, flavors, textures, and how much enjoyment you are receiving from a certain food. Make a mindful choice about what to eat based on what you really enjoy.
- All you have to do is notice 5 things in your day that usually go unappreciated. These things can be objects or people; it’s up to you. Use a notepad to check off 5 by the end of the day.
- The point of this exercise is to simply give thanks and appreciate the seemingly insignificant things in life, the things that support our existence but rarely get a second thought amidst our desire for bigger and better things. Take some time to ask yourself these questions:
- Do you know how these things/processes came to exist, or how they really work?
- Have you ever properly acknowledged how these things benefit your life and the lives of others?
- Have you ever thought about what life might be like without these things?
- Have you ever stopped to notice their finer, more intricate details?
- Have you ever sat down and thought about the relationships between these things and how together they play an interconnected role in the functioning of the earth?
- Once you have identified your 5 things, make it your duty to find out everything you can about their creation and purpose to truly appreciate the way in which they support your life.