Day Six: Mindfulness

yogarantsandraves credit
credit: yogarantsandraves

I am currently in the middle of a six-week mindfulness seminar. Every Monday night, I sit around a boardroom table with five strangers and a therapist while we practice breathing, meditation and yoga and learn all about the power of the brain and the power of breath. And wow, is there power in both!

I don’t think any of us in the group are taking the seminar for weight loss, but the principles of mindfulness apply well to all areas of life. I’ve learned so much each week, it’s hard to keep track of it all. I’m hoping by improving my inner self, I can learn and adopt behaviors which will translate to how I treat my body as well.

Here are some of the takeaways I’ve gotten from class so far:

1. Our minds are so often racing ahead into the future (such as worrying and planning, two things I do a lot of) and reflecting on the past (and not always in a reliable fashion), that it’s often hard for us to keep our minds in the present. Too little of our time is spent in the present, and that’s what life is made of – a bunch of little slices of the present, moments which fade quickly into memories.

We were tasked with focusing on deriving pleasure from moments this week, and really focusing on what the moment was doing for us. I had my most ‘mindful’ moment today after giving my son his bath. It’s usually loud and chaotic to get him dressed and dry, but today he let me scoop him up in his towel and lay him on the carpet of his room. He stared up at me with the sweetest smile while I spoke to him and dried him off, focusing on rubbing his legs and feet and enjoying how he looked up into my eyes as we spoke. Our conversation was about peeing dinosaurs – his toy dinosaur was dripping water – but the content wasn’t important. In that moment, my little boy and I were connecting and touching and smiling and focusing on each other. And I’m grateful I knew to be mindful of that.

2. Why do we believe the thoughts our minds present to us? It’s automatic to do this. We take our thoughts literally, and either agree with them or argue with them. And how hard is it to fight off a thought?! It’s nearly impossible to just will a thought away. But really, our thoughts are just part of an ongoing process of relating and reacting. They are neither true or false. They are just thoughts as we relate to them.

I feel this knowledge is important because we experience so much in our minds that is never actually reality. I’m talking about worry, guilt, shame, self-doubt – all which invade our thoughts and block out the real experience of NOW. And how much of those feelings are just projections of a reality that only you inhabit?

This can be applied to weight loss. I’ve yet to learn the secret to will power (and if someone has it, please tell me), but I do know I let negative thoughts interrupt my attempts at healthy habits.

3. Breathe is powerful. My husband knows I’m a fan of deep breathing. I’ve taken enough yoga and CBT and done enough stress reduction research to have felt I was already a deep breathing guru. I was wrong! There is so much more to breathing than I knew. Did you know that taking a really deep belly breath does something to your vasovagal nerve which then sends out serotonin? I knew that taking a deep breath was relaxing, but now I understand the actual science behind how it works and I’m amazed. Breathing is a mini anti-depressant. I also love how deep breathing blocks out anxiety and anger (for the duration of the breath) because your body can’t breathe rapidly and shallowly while you’re doing deep breathing. It literally cancels out the stress response.

I used to lie in bed at night and do the one nostril breathing technique to relax me before sleep. I’m sure my husband will love the addition of center point breathing, etc. Ha. Well, with any luck, I can get him to join me in some heavy breathing before bed….

(Haha)

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