We have an inspiring blog post from a fantastic guest blogger Katie Zupan
When was the last time you purposefully stepped back
to take a moment for yourself?
I’m not talking about stepping back as an opportunity to scroll through your phone or sit down and watch TV. I mean extending yourself a little me time in order to become aware of the present moment. To nourish yourself so you are more connected to your surroundings and with those around you.
Cultivating this awareness is the essence of mindfulness. In his book, Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening, Joseph Goldstein explains how answering the question of, ‘what is mindfulness?’ is difficult. He says asking this question “is a bit like asking, ‘what is art?’ or ‘what is love?’” To make it simple, mindfulness is being fully aware in the moment. To be curious. To be present with all the sensations and thoughts (even negative ones) that may arise with awareness.
These concepts may sound a bit esoteric but it is really quite basic…and science backs it up! Consider this:
Stress shoots adrenaline and cortisol through the body and limits the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for rational thinking. On the other hand, mindfulness and presence allows for neuroplasticity - otherwise known as the growth of new neural connections. According to two researchers at Harvard University, being present in the moment is when we are the happiest (no matter what we are doing!) They say the present makes us feel good ‘ because we fully experience the things going on around us, instead of getting caught in a race to accomplish more things faster.’ Contradictory to what you may believe, this sense of focus allows us to be more productive.
Bringing a little mindfulness into your day may take some practice at first. Old habits are hard to break. But once you begin to experience the physical benefits, you will naturally start to view the world around you with greater pleasure.
To help you start, we’ve put together 3 WAYS TO BE MORE MINDFUL IN YOUR DAY. Done with intention, these simple activities allow you a little time to check-in and reconnect. Try them and notice how the world around you seems to change, how you relate to people changes, and notice how you feel.
1. WAITING ROOMS, LINES + TRAFFIC
It’s rarely fun to stand in line, pass time in a busy waiting room or wait in a traffic jam. We can certainly check Facebook once again or turn on the car radio. Or you can see it as an opportunity to connect with your breath. To be aware of your emotions as you wait. Do anxieties arise? Feelings of impatience? Anger? Observe your emotions from a distance. Refrain from judging your feelings. Recognize your thoughts as just passing and simply take this as an opportunity to enjoy a few deep breaths. Each breath clears the mind, relaxes the body and dissipates any feelings which are prohibiting you from being present in the moment.
2. YOUR DESK
Your desk at work can be made into a sacred space. This is where you may spend hours every day. If you just can’t leave an assignment, then put your computer to sleep and push your chair back. Practice a guided meditation or simply breathe without the use of devices. Having a candle at your desk is a great way to set a daily ritual for yourself. It also sparks creativity! Bring in a few aromatherapy satchels to put in your desk drawer. Inhaling lavender or eucalyptus oils stimulates senses that we neglect when we are caught up with work. Setting a reminder such as a sticky note or timer makes this time to step back important. Like any work meeting, be sure to show up! Make your self-care a priority as you would with any other work commitment.
3. FIND A PARK BENCH
You know all those seductive photos of empty park benches where you dream of one day sitting and reading your book? Make it happen! Don’t wait until the timing is perfect.... it’s rarely perfect. Set a date to visit a park bench. Pencil it in your calendar. Grab a cup of tea or coffee and enjoy the moment. Be mindful of the elements surrounding you and notice how you feel. Carve this time out in your day as an intimate space to reconnect. Maybe there is a spot you notice on your drive to work. Anticipate visiting this space on the way home today. Make the activity fun by seeking new spaces to reconnect every week. Don’t forget to practice a few deep breaths to fully take in this special time.
You may be thinking…. I don’t have time in my already-crammed schedule to do these things! I have to pick up the kids from school or stop at the grocery store before I head home. This is the new pace of life for most people. If we don’t take the time to slow down, even for 10-15 minutes a day, we are putting ourselves at risk for a host of medical illnesses which accompany high levels of cortisol (namely, high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, insomnia.) Begin with these 3 simple activities to incorporate a little mindfulness into your self-care routine. I promise you will wonder why you’ve waited this long!
Be Amazing Over 40!
Dr Diana Hoppe
Katie Zupan-Lehman, MSN Bio
Katie is a Mindfulness Practitioner. She also has her Masters in Nursing as a Family Nurse Practitioner and a B.S. in Psychology. As the creator of the website www.thymeandpresence, Katie recognizes the negative effects of a busy lifestyle and believes in the importance of taking time to step back to reconnect with your mind + body + spirit.