MINDFUL BREATHING Practice

Sometimes it sounds good to start something new, but it's hard to actually incorporate it into your life.  Mindfulness exercises  may seem like a great idea, but like any new skill, they require practice.  Learning something new requires tolerating mistakes, accepting failure, and trying something you've never done before knowing that initially you will probably not be very good at it.  Below are some questions that might help you make a commitment to practicing mindful breathing throughout your day.  Like playing the piano or any other skill, the more you practice, the easier it will become.

On an average day, rate from 1-5 the level of stress you feel at different times during the day.  1= No stress or painful emotions, 5= Extreme stress and painful emotion. 

Morning (before school/ work, preparing for the day)

1    2    3    4    5 

School/work/day activity

1    2    3    4    5 

Afternoon (coming home, up until dinner)

1    2    3    4    5 

Dinner & evening (until bedtime)

1    2    3    4    5 

Bedtime (preparing for and going to bed)

1    2    3    4    5 

Sleep (after going to bed until morning)

1    2    3    4    5 

What would be the best time to use Mindful breathing to calm and center myself when stressed? 

 What would be the best time to practice Mindful breathing when calm?

DON’T LET THE BEAUTY OF THE SEASON PASS YOU BY: 3 Ways to Focus and Experience This Summer.

How often do you do things in an automatic way?  How often do you do things in a non-conscious way without thinking?  For example, have you driven somewhere and had no idea how you got there because you were thinking about something completely different or were distracted by children or talking to another person.  Or maybe you were doing many other things besides driving.  We live in a society that values multi-tasking.  We are conditioned to scan tremendous amounts of information that we’re bombarded with every day, to work while watching children, to cook and clean while talking on the phone, watching TV and monitoring sibling squabbles.  Besides that it often makes us frazzled and exhausted, are we really getting more done?  Researchers have asked one set of people to do things mindfully and another group of people to do everything as quickly as possible (multi-tasking).   The researchers* found that the people who did things one-mindfully were, in fact, the most efficient. 

Doing one thing at a time can actually be difficult. Often when we’re bored or upset we don’t like what we are doing, we start doing something else or thinking about something else.  Planning for the future or worrying about the past  also interferes with our ability to focus on the present.  But focusing on the present has many advantages:  1) it is more efficient, 2) it allows you to live life to the fullest.   You don’t miss what is going on and 3) even when bad things happen, you experience them and move past them, rather than hanging on to them and worrying about them endlessly.

This summer consider making a conscious attempt to really experience the season.  Don’t let this part of life slip past you.  It’s hard not to love the summer.  What’s not to love about fresh cut grass, warm air, and the ice cream truck?  Whether you are in the mountains of Colorado  hiking alongside rushing streams or on the beaches of NJ, summer is the season of long days, warm nights and playing outdoors.   But sometimes summer slips by too quickly.  Somewhere in the midst of swim lessons, long days at work, household chores, and visits to relatives the season is gone.  I might plan a trip to the beach or the amusement park, but I’m so busy orchestrating the outing, making sure the outing works with nap times, that snacks, sunscreen and extra clothing are packed, strollers and carriers are organized etc. that I miss the moment.  I turn to intervene in a squabble in the back of the car, rather than notice the warm breeze and smell of the sea.  I wade into the waves only to my knees between trips to the potty and bouncing a tired baby.  As a result, I miss out on the joy and relaxation that comes from simply experiencing the season.    Here are 3 ideas to help you focus and experience the season.

  1.  Eat or drink something.  Eat or drink something this season that represents the season to you, whether an ice cream cone, watermelon slice, or blueberry you picked yourself.  Eat as slowly as you can, hold each bite in your mouth and truly taste it, as you eat it.   Notice your thoughts and surroundings and bring your mind back to simply tasting the food/drink.
  2. Watch the sea or some form of water.  Find a favorite spot and notice the water.  Spend several minutes.  Notice how it moves and changes color.  Notice with your full attention.  Notice the details of surface.  Is it very flat, with only the smallest of ripples or rough and churned up.    If you find you are distracted by sounds or things you encounter gently bring your mind back.
  3. Participate.  Choose a summer activity that you love and give yourself a break from being the organizer and orchestrator.  Allow yourself to fully participate in the activity.  When you are participating, throw yourself in.  Walking somewhere, focus on just walking.  Do just one thing at a time, walking is walking.  Eating is eating.  Swimming is swimming.  When you experience the inevitable distractions, notice them, deal with the ones you have to, and then bring yourself back to fully participating in what you are doing.

Focusing on one thing in the moment allows you to live life to the fullest.  If you are living life in the moment, if you can experience it, you can be aware of your entire life.  You don’t miss your life.  You don’t miss what is going on.

*Article:  Joshua Rubinstein, Ph.D., of the Federal Aviation Administration, and David Meyer, Ph.D., and Jeffrey Evans, Ph.D., both at the University of Michigan, describe their research on multi-tasking  in the August issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, published by the American Psychological Association (APA).  (Full text of the article is available from the APA Public Affairs Office and at http://www.apa.org/journals/releases/xhp274763.pdf.)

*Blog:  Monica discusses Mindfulness vs. Multitasking in her blog:  http://74.125.47.132/search?q=cache:VBfXNVOj1tYJ:nebuddhist.blogspot.com/2007/03/mindfulness-multitasking.html+research,+multitasking+vs.+mindfulness&cd=2&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

Mindful Breathing- counting your breath

Focusing on breathing can be helpful when you’re overwhelmed or your mind is wandering.  You don’t have to do it for a long time.  All you have to do is tune into your breathing as it comes into your body and leaves your body.

counting your breath.

  1. get settled in a comfortable position
  2. focus attention on breath
  3. inhale, filling lungs
  4. exhale-count on each exhale from one to ten.  For example:  Inhale, Exhale, “one,” Inhale, exhale, “two” inhale, exhale “three” up to ten.
  5. When you reach 10 start over at 1
  6. if you lose count at any time, start over at 1

5 Ways Your Life Might Be Out of Balance and Stressing You Out

Are you stressed and irritable?  Reset your mood with simple changes to your daily routines and habits.

Stress can present itself in many forms in our lives.  For me a clear indicator that I am stressed is when I begin to snap at the kids for minor infractions.  I consider myself to have a pretty laid back parenting style, so when I begin to get worked up over small spills, lost shoes, and squabbles over toys I know it’s time to take a look at what is going on.  Irritability is the big red flag for me.  Some other signs of stress include: feeling frazzled, overwhelmed and frustrated, difficulty concentrating, negative thinking, mood swings, lack of energy, and difficulty making decisions.  Stress also manifests itself physically in such things as aches and pains.

Stress has many sources.  Certainly we are all familiar with anxiety over work, worry about family, or relationship problems.  However, much of stress comes from simple habits and routines in our everyday lives.  In the short run that bag of chips or late night TV show may feel like a stress reliever.  Unfortunately, in the long run, these things may actually cause additional stress.  Ask yourself these questions about your life and your routines to see if they are out of balance and causing you stress.

1.      SLEEP:  Are you getting balanced sleep?  Not too much, not too little?  Of course in a busy world with myriad demands from work and family this may seem like a loaded question, but most people need somewhere around 8 uninterrupted hours of sleep a night.  Many people believe they can function on 6 hours of sleep, but in reality, they cannot.  Jaime Boero, M.D., Ph.D., a sleep specialist at Marshfield Clinic Neurosciences, says “when you don’t get enough sleep you are more easily distracted, and it’s harder to concentrate on a task.”  “You’re more irritable and less flexible.”  Dr. Boero also has found that lack of sleep plays a part in weight gain. “People use food to keep themselves awake.”   “Appetite is regulated by sleep as well.”

2.      EXERCISE:  Are you getting daily exercise?  We’ve all heard about endorphins, the neurotransmitters produced in the brain and released during exercise.  Endorphins have a powerful effect on the body, both reducing pain and inducing feelings of euphoria.  In clinical studies, physical activity and exercise have been found to alleviate some symptoms associated with mild to moderate depression. The evidence also suggests that physical activity and exercise might improve self-image, social skills, and cognitive functioning; reduce the symptoms of anxiety and alter aspects of Type A behavior and physiological response to stressors.  Chris Freytag elaborates on the stress busting effects of exercise in her blog.

3.      EATING:  Are you eating a balanced, healthy diet?  Do you engage in many of the following behaviors:  skipping meals, mindless munching, forgetting water, eating fast foods, or going on crash diets?  Does your diet contain high quantities of coffee or caffeine and fried foods?  Do you use too much alcohol?

Certain foods that contain caffeine, sugar, salt and saturated fat in high quantities act as a direct cause of stress, for a person who has any kind of limitation is very important that the person in charge of the home care knows well all the dietary limitations.

Use glucotype2 to fight against Type 2 diabetes and to lower your cholesterol. Stress, in turn, can lead to further unhealthy eating.  In order to better balance your eating, you may consider increasing whole grains and green, yellow and orange vegetables in your diet.  Health professionals also recommend eating breakfast, having green or black tea instead of coffee, sparkling water instead of soda, packing your own lunch and snacks, no caffeine after 2pm, and stocking your home with healthy foods.

4.      TREAT ILLNESS AND PHYSICAL PAIN:  Do you have any physical illnesses or pains that you are not taking care of?  Do you have high cholesterol?  Back pain?  Or any of a host of physical problems? Are you visiting your medical clinic for your yearly check-up? Any physical pain or worries about physical problems make you more vulnerable to stress.

5.      COMPETENCE:  Do you do something every day that makes you feel competent and in control?  The day to day activities of raising a family and taking care of a home can give a sense of competence.  But for many, it is important to do something else that gives a feeling of accomplishment. Streams of Wholeness life coaching can help you give the true feeling of accomplishment through God.

So if you notice you are stressed and irritable lately, take a look at your daily life and routines.  Making a few simple changes can reduce your frazzled feelings and make you better able to enjoy the good things and handle the challenges in your life.