When you mention mindfulness, many people immediately imagine Buddhist monks, sitting in the lotus position meditating. If you are unaware of how mindfulness can be incorporated into many aspects of life, it can seem impractical in the midst of the pressures, demands and hassles that most people encounter every day.
However, practicing mindfulness– defined by Jon Kabat-Zinn as the process of paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally– can have a significant impact on our functioning. It can improve your ability to focus, as well as your ability to manage intense or painful emotions. Continue reading “Can Mindfulness Transform Feelings?” »
The holidays can be both wonderful and painful. They can remind us to connect with loved ones, but they can also be reminders of connections that we don’t have.
Depending on your circumstances, you might feel frazzled by extra activities and events or lonely and left out of the holiday hustle and bustle. It can be a time of reflecting back on happy childhood memories or a time of painful reminders of the past.
Continue reading “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year? A Seasonal Mindfulness” »
We all have nights when sleep seems elusive, but some of us experience sleep problems and insomnia with regularity. Recent research has indicated that mindfulness can help improve sleep. Below are a few exercises you might try when you’re tossing and turning.
When you notice you’re having trouble sleeping, begin by bringing your attention and awareness to what is going on in your mind and body. Notice if you are worrying or thinking about something. Are your thoughts racing? Are they triggering emotions that are not calm and relaxing? If you get distracted and wrapped up in your thinking again, just notice that, label the thoughts you were distracted by (you might label them as worries, or simply label them as thoughts of the “past”, “future” or “fantasies”). Bring your mind back, again and again to simply observing your thoughts.
Do the same with your body. Bring your full attention to your body. Scan from head to toe. Are you holding tension? Do you have discomfort or pain that is interfering with sleep? In this season of colds and flu, are you congested or feeling sick?
Once you’ve attended to what is interfering with sleep, choose a mindfulness exercise to help you get calm and relaxed.
If you need to focus your thoughts, try breathing exercises. A few breathing exercises that can be useful when trying to get to sleep include: counting with each breath from 1-10, repeating as necessary; saying “in” and “out” with each inhalation and exhalation; breathing out until you feel your lungs entirely empty of air and then breathing in feeling them fill from bottom to top- repeat 4 times; or breathing out while imagining your entire body from head to toe emptying of air and breathing in and imagining your entire body filling up. With each exercise, notice if you become distracted and return your thoughts to your breath. Repeat as often as necessary. Mindfulness exercises become easier and distractions lesson over time.
If you have noticed that discomfort and tension in your body is keeping you from sleep, you may want to try a body scan and tension reduction exercise. You may simply scan your body from head to toe and relax each area of your body as you bring your attention to it. Or you may tense muscle groups, like the hands, feet and face for several seconds and then relax those muscles. You can repeat these exercises until your body is feeling more relaxed. As with the breathing exercises, bring your mind back if you become distracted.