Blogging · Meditation types · nonfiction

Mindfulness Meditation

Today I will be talking about Mindfulness Meditation, what it is and how to do it. This is a first in a series where I will write about ten types of meditation, explain a bit what they are and how to apply them to your life. My post on the different types can be found here.

Mindfulness meditation is a method of paying attention to your present moment experiences with curiosity, openness, and willingness to be in that specific time without judgment. It incorporates breathing sensations and teaches how to turn one’s attention back to the experience when distractions arise. This method of meditation teaches you to slow down racing thoughts, let go of negativity, and calm both your mind and body. 

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To get started, all you need is a comfortable place to sit, three to five minutes of free time, and a judgment-free mindset. Remember, meditation is a practice, so it’s never perfect. You are ready to begin now just as you are!

A timer (preferably with a soft, gentle alarm) can help you focus on meditation and forget about time—and eliminate any excuses you have for stopping and doing something else. A timer isn’t necessary but it does help keep track of how long you meditate as I have found you can lose track of the time easily. Some people meditate for longer sessions, but even a few minutes every day can make a difference.

Personally, I do this type of meditation quite often, especially at night when I am trying to sleep and my mind is racing full tilt! It helps calm my mind and my body so I can fall asleep. So, how to do it…….

If you are not lying in bed trying to fall asleep, or it’s in the middle of the day, you can find a comfortable place to sit in a chair or on the floor with your head, neck, and back straight but not stiff. It’s also helpful to wear comfortable, loose clothing so you’re not distracted. But being that this practice can be done anywhere for any amount of time, a dress code is not required.

Okay, now that you’re comfortable, concentrate on your breathing. Become aware of your breath, feel your belly rise and fall as the air enters your nostrils and leaves your nostrils. When thoughts come up in your mind, don’t ignore or suppress them. Simply note them, remain calm, and use your breathing as an anchor. Imagine your thoughts as clouds passing by; watch them float by as they shift and change. Repeat this as often as you need to while you are meditating.

If you find yourself getting carried away in your thoughts—whether, with worry, fear, anxiety, or hope—observe where your mind went, without judgment, and just return to your breathing. Don’t be hard on yourself if this happens; the practice of returning to your breath and refocusing on the present is the practice of mindfulness.

As you practice mindfulness meditation, it helps to find ways to bring mindfulness into your everyday life, especially on those days when life is too busy to carve out a minute alone.  Everyday activities and tasks provide plenty of opportunities for mindfulness practice.

A few examples:

  • Brushing your teeth: Feel your feet on the floor, the brush in your hand, and your arm moving up and down.
  • Doing dishes: Savor the feeling of the warm water on your hands, the look of the bubbles, and the sounds of the pans clunking on the bottom of the sink.
  • Doing laundry: Pay attention to the smell of the clean clothes and the feel of the fabric. Add a focus element and count your breaths as you fold laundry.
  • Driving: Turn off the radio—or put on something soothing, like classical music. Imagine your spine growing tall, find the half-way point between relaxing your hands and gripping the wheel too tightly. Whenever you notice your mind wandering, bring your attention back to where you and your car are in space.
  • Exercising: Instead of watching television while on the treadmill, try focusing on your breathing and where your feet are as you move.
  • Getting kids ready for bed: Get down to the same level as your kids, look in their eyes, listen more than you talk, and savor any snuggles. When you relax, they will too. 

Regular practice of mindfulness meditation has benefits for your physical as well as your mental health. I can attest to this part. Mostly with my mental health.

  • It can help reduce stress
  • Lower heart rate
  • Help your body resist illness
  • Gives you better sleep

It’s important to remember that even a few minutes each day can be beneficial. Just a few minutes of being present can reap significant benefits. Even if you don’t do it every day, it’s a practice you can keep coming back to when you need it.

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Blogging · nonfiction

Get A Hobby!

Have you ever told someone that they need a hobby? Or have you heard someone say ‘that person needs a hobby!’? More than likely they said that because they or the other person were down, depressed, or mentally exhausted or exhaustive.

The idea behind having a hobby is to relax and spend some quality time with themselves, or even as a group activity that you do with people you enjoy being around.

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So what counts as a hobby? A hobby can be any activity done regularly during spare or leisure time for pleasure. Whether you do something creative, athletic, academic, or something more individualized, what really matters is that it is something you find meaningful and enjoyable. Hobbies can range from spending quiet time alone, visiting or eating with others, communing with nature, playing sports, and even vacationing. When we dedicate time to voluntarily engage in pleasurable activities, research shows our mental health can flourish.

But I don’t have time!

That is something I hear a lot and I’ve even said a few times. In a world that glorifies work and/or studying so many people think they have no time for a hobby. There are however a few things you can change to find that ever-elusive time!

Rather than trying to find ‘hobby time’ every day, try thinking of time in weeks to discover extra time hidden in your schedule. Dedicate a few hours to something you enjoy each week. Still struggling to find time for fun? Take a step back and say ‘no’ (or delegate) to lighten your load and make space for hobbies.

There are many times during the day we may find ourselves in autopilot mode. It’s easy to lose track of time doing mindless things like checking social media or watching television. Tune in to how you’re spending downtime, whether it’s in the morning or evening, and consider how you might use that time to indulge in something you enjoy.

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So, start a new hobby or get back to an old one. The extra benefits are great! Your mental and physical well-being will improve so much.

For instance, you will reduce stress. Just doing something you enjoy (you don’t have to be an expert at it) helps you relax. You will also enhance your overall feeling of well-being.

If you are more extroverted join group activities. Doing a hobby doesn’t have to be something you do alone. Find other people or groups that enjoy doing what you do. You just might find yourself with some new friends which is a bonus!

Maybe your hobby can be done out in nature. Talk walks, hikes, alone or in a group. Nature has always been known for its healing and stress-relieving abilities. As little as ten minutes out in nature can lead to improved mood, focus, and overall wellbeing.

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A hobby doesn’t have to be expensive. Taking a walk in nature, or visiting a library to find a book that you enjoy, even museums are usually free to get in. Maybe meditate or do yoga, or something else physical. I bet if you really thought about it you could find a dozen things to do for little to no money.

The important thing is to find something that helps you lead a life that is less stressful. You’ll thank yourself later.

Blogging · nonfiction

Positive Thinking: What is it and How can it help you?

I’m a great believer in the power of positive thinking. So, what is the definition of “positive thinking”? According to Merriam-Webster, it is……a feeling or way of thinking that affects a person’s behavior.

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It’s hard to think positively all the time, especially in today’s world of chaos, war, and Covid. It’s exactly at these tough times when we need it the most. Thinking positively about yourself colors your perspective on the outside world. It can’t help but overflow outward.

It doesn’t mean you won’t face some dark and hard times. You will. We all do. It just means it won’t be quite as dark, quite as hard as it could be. Staying positive is hard work. I work on it every day. The benefits are well worth it. That doesn’t mean you ignore reality or make light of problems. It simply means you approach the good and the bad in life with the expectation that things will go well.

What are the benefits of thinking positively? (There really are no downsides to staying upbeat.)

Some physical benefits may include:

  • Longer life span
  • Lower chance of having a heart attack
  • Better physical health
  • Greater resistance to illness such as the common cold
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Better stress management
  • Better pain tolerance
  • The mental benefits may include:
  • More creativity
  • Greater problem-solving skill
  • Clearer thinking
  • Better mood
  • Better coping skills
  • Less depression
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This all sounds great. My own personal experience is it does help in a lot of those things. I think mileage may vary as everyone is wired differently.

Ok, we get that it’s very good for you to think positively but how do we get started? What do we do? HOW do we do it?

Well for one, smile more! Sounds simple right? It isn’t. Trust me on that one! They say that even if you put a fake smile on your lips while doing difficult things helps. Find the humor in things.

Put a more positive spin on bad situations. This is one area I’m always working on. I get frustrated because physically I can’t do some things I used to do with ease when I was younger. Now I struggle. When I find myself getting frustrated I smile (there’s that fake smile again) and say to myself, “well at least I can still do this, might be slower at it, or need help with it but eventually it does get done!”

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Focus on your strengths. Each day for a week, think about one of your personal strengths, like kindness, organization, discipline, or creativity. Write down how you plan to use that strength in new ways that day. Then, act on it. People in a study who did that boosted their happiness and lowered their symptoms of depression at the end of the week. Six months later, those benefits were still going strong.

With practice, you can add more positive thoughts to your life and enjoy the benefits that come with optimism.

These are just a very few things you can practice. In later posts, I’ll go into more detail about some other things you can do to practice positive thinking but I think this is a good start.

Do you do anything to practice positivity? Let me know!