ILLUMINATION
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Mindfulness Starter Kit

A Quick Guide To Daily Zen

Photo by Em Lmt on Unsplash

Shhhh…Breathe….Quiet the mind.

What? How? There is SO MUCH TO THINK ABOUT AND FUSS OVER AND PLAN FOR!!

Ok. Let’s try this again. Start small.

Slow down. Breathe. Go outside.

Mindfulness is all the rage, but what is it exactly? The Mayo Clinic defines mindfulness as “a type of meditation in which you focus on being intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling in the moment, without interpretation or judgment.”

Meditation sounds difficult when we are in “go” mode, with our minds and body firing on all cylinders. But, as daunting as it might sound, practicing mindfulness can be easy and fast. It doesn’t have to be sitting in silence alone all day, trying not to lose your mind!

Here are a few simple ways to practice being present on purpose, especially during these trying times when we are inundated with information and the desire to escape is real!

1. Slowing Down

Stopping our bodies and our minds for a moment can do wonders for our nervous system. When we feel ourselves spiraling emotionally or mentally, thinking about everything in our lives, in the world, or from information overload, take a pause. Noticing the spiral is key. Then we can consciously choose to walk away, turn off the TV, or tune in to our breathing pattern.

This slowing down will help us refocus in a more intentional way and returns a sense of control over our minds. Other ways to slow down are journaling or repeating a mantra.

2. Deep Breathing

When we are on an emotional high or feeling really down, our breathing is shallow and our nervous systems are on alert. This can lead to a feeling of panic. When we slow down and then intentionally take deep breaths, we increase oxygen supply to the brain. Focusing on the slow, intentional exhalation will activate the parasympathetic nervous system and lead to a sense of relaxation. Adding in a short loving kindness meditation, where we focus our love and attention on others, will increase our oxytocin. Feeling more connected to your body will take you out of your head so you can think, act, and respond more clearly.

Try Dr. Andrew Weil’s 4–7–8 technique. This breathing style helps replenish oxygen and can calm frazzled nerves.

In one full breath cycle, exhale completely, making a “whooshing” sound. Then, with lips closed, inhale through your nose as you count to four in your head. Next, hold your breath for seven seconds. Finally, exhale with another “whooshing” sound for eight seconds. Practice this pattern for four total cycles.

Photo by Melissa Askew on Unsplash

3. Grounding

Putting our feet on the earth is another powerful way to calm and connect. When we plant our bare feet in the grass, it helps root us and remind us that we are all connected. The feeling of not being alone in our big emotions helps stop, or at least slow, the mental spiral and has been shown to decrease symptoms of anxiety and PTSD by creating “space from distressing feelings.”

Imagine standing on the sand or near a giant tree. Then picture actual roots connecting you to the ground. We live in a society where “go it alone” and “every man for himself” seems to rule the day, but we are all connected. To each other, to the planet, to the universe.

Other ways to ground ourselves include putting our hands in water or taking a short walk in nature. All offer opportunities to get in touch with the sensations we feel and provide a moment to focus on something other than our mental or emotional state.

These starter ideas are practical, take less than five minutes per day, and are easily accessible. When we slow down, breathe, and connect to something bigger, we can mindfully move out of our reactionary patterns and make more conscious choices. As we start to feel safe and successful in our endeavors, we can try new ways to increase mindfulness. Then make it a consistent and enjoyable practice to lead to less stress and more happiness.

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Liz Bailey

Liz Bailey

I am a coffee and yoga loving mom in Austin, Texas. My passion is writing about personal development, spiritual growth, relationships, and parenting.

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