I previously shared the epic growth I experienced this summer and in it I spoke about how I currently move through negative emotions. The following is a very brief introduction to some of the tools that have now become ritual and habit to help me feel my best and breakthrough old patterns and beliefs. I have many, many more like yoga, journaling, reiki, and guides/coaches, but these are simple practices that you can start to sprinkle into your days. Like most things that add value to our lives - eating healthy, moving our bodies, maintaining relationships - these practices take time to build and require regular maintenance to see the benefits they can bring. Start slow and have fun exploring.
Mindfulness is a practice that brings you back to the present moment. By tuning into your body, the urges and messages it is sending, and the sensations it experiences through sight, sound, taste, and touch you are lured into the moment. Much of our struggles with anxiety, fear, and depression are due to a disconnection between our minds and our bodies. We are busy thinking and most often stressing over things that lead to a complete neglect of our body, what it is feeling and encountering. We’ve all driven our cars and noticed that we zoned out for miles, we left our body to do the work and wandered into an often stressful place in our minds, allowing ourselves to be distracted by stress. This separation between mind and body leaves us feeling dissatisfied, it means we aren’t present to our lives, instead life is flying right by.
When we bring mindfulness into our daily lives we begin moving from a place where mind and body are connected, resulting in more satisfying experiences. It only takes one moment of mindfulness for our mind, body and soul to become united in a moment of peace. These moments help us to feel connected and safe, hopeful and appreciative, instead of disconnected and lost.
Notice all of your senses while doing routine activities:
Use your non dominant hand for simple tasks to witness how strong our unconscious habits are, you usually don’t have to think about using your dominant hand to brush your teeth. This reminds us how difficult it can be to change without awareness and practice.
Play Eye Spy throughout your day to notice something simple like a certain color or trees. Or you can look for examples of love, joy, or fun being experienced by others throughout your day. Being mindful of simple things brings awareness to how easy it is to overlook what’s right in front of us.
Take a closer look at your food. Notice all of the attention, care and effort that was taken to get the food to your plate. This brings gratitude into our meals. It can also bring awareness to the food choices that we make, noticing when meals are filled with so many loving people and actions and when they are just looking to sell us something.
Somatic awareness takes mindfulness to the next level, going deeper to observe and explore ourselves through sensation and movement. Simply put, somatic awareness is learning to feel your body and interpret its sensations to provide the body with what it needs. The biggest benefit for me in this area has been learning to identify my emotions, noticing how an emotion feels in my body and then doing my best to name the emotion. Is this fear or worry? Is this guilt or unworthiness? Is this overwhelm or frustration?
Most of us were never taught how to identify our emotions. We were told that a smiley face means we’re happy and frown face means we’re sad. We were never taught what they feel like and in turn how to move through them. This awareness gives us the power to witness an emotion and then create what we need to move forward. Finding forgiveness if we’re experiencing guilt. Lightening the load if its overwhelm we’re experiencing. Leaving them unnoticed, or pushing them away because they are uncomfortable, bottles them up, forcing the body to speak louder (stronger emotions) or even scream at us with painful sensations or dis-ease.
Notice all of your senses while moving your body:
Walking, running, gardening, exercising, etc.
Name your emotions. - Anytime you have a strong emotion “good” or “bad”, begin playing with giving it a name. Is it fear? Anger? Worry? Happiness? Joy? Hopefulness? Use an emotional scale like this one to help.
Feel your emotions. - Get into a relaxed state (bath, beach, nature, post movement) and begin to explore what certain emotions feel like in your body. Conjure a thought or memory that makes you feel happy and notice where this show up in your body and what the sensation feels like. Play with all sorts of emotions, even the “negative” ones when you are in a safe place. I like to start with things like fear, worry, unworthiness and then move into love, happiness, and joy so that I end on a high note.
Create an emotions handbook. Combine journaling with any of these other activities, noting what emotions feel like and any other notes, including what balances these emotions.
Meditation is the act of stepping out of the busyness of the mind and instead bringing the focus to something else, most often the breath. This is the tool with the biggest bang for your buck, but for many it can be difficult to find a regular practice. Meditation is not the act of thinking nothing, its the act of not attaching or following our thoughts, instead letting them come and then letting them go. Eventually, this skill gets stronger and the detachment is easier to find and maintain. Often however, my mind is rather busy and its tough to find this feeling of release, so on those days my practice is to simply sit with my eyes closed until my timer goes off. Practicing first thing in the morning can be helpful for some as well as in nature or after movement.
Start slow and build, maybe starting with 5 minutes and building to 20 minutes. There are so many types of meditation - mindfulness, love and kindness, mantra, yoga, self inquiry, inner child, future self, past self, movement, and many more - but the foundation for most of them is finding that gentle state of release. Guided meditations are helpful when the mind is really active (search YouTube, or use an app like Headspace or Calm).
Meditation benefits can be found anytime the mind shifts out of the chaos of wild thoughts and into a relaxed, often in the body, state. This can be found while doing the dishes or taking a shower, during flowing activities like paddling or yoga. My favorite way to meditate currently is through sound. I love to find a sound that is strong enough to hold my attention, but subtle enough that it doesn’t trigger new thoughts. Noises like crickets, the ocean, a fan, an air conditioner, or the humming of your refrigerator are great options to begin playing with.
Self care was the first healing tool that I truly embraced and it saved my life. It showed me just how little care I was actually taking care of myself. Sure, I was going to the gym and eating my vegetables, but I was also using alcohol, food, men, shopping and Netflix to avoid any discomfort that I found in my everyday life. Self care allowed me to nurture myself into feeling better, without the negative ramifications that usually showed up after using one of those old tools to “relax” or feel better.
It can seem selfish to spend time on yourself when work needs to be done, others need to cared for, others need much more that you do, and when there is so little time left for ourselves, BUT you may have already experienced the wall that we can hit when we neglect our own health - mind, body and soul. Spending time on your wellness shows that you care about how you feel. It shows others that you are a priority and that they can do the same. Self care is an act of service to all. Even more, this self care practice blossoms into the most amazing self love :)
As always this is your practice. Keep what works and leave what doesn’t, but do give something a solid try. These practices are cumulative in nature, so you gain the benefits after you’ve built some momentum. I’m a fan of 14 or 30 day challenges to really get the feel for what a tool can do for you.