Have you ever thought about how some people out there are just so good at being "in the moment"? No worries about the future, and no regrets about the past. How do they do it? What's their secret? Even more, how do they make it look so effortless?
Often times when I try to introduce mindfulness to my clients there is typically a little push back or resistance. "That sounds weird" or "Isn't that like a thing that monks do?" Well, yes, it's definitely not something that you see someone doing out in public, but mindfulness is actually more commonly used than you would think. Popular apps such as Headspace and Calm use the same techniques and principles that I would use in a mindfulness session. The best thing is that the majority of mindfulness based activities can be completed with very little to no cost, making it a favorite and frequently reached for intervention when we are in a pinch!
Mindfulness can be practiced in many different ways, formal or informal. Mindfulness can be as simple as stepping outside and noticing all of your senses, or as complicated as going to a 90 minute advanced yoga class. That is why I often encourage it with my clients, as it can be helpful no matter what space you are in during your journey. It has often been said that fear of the future often leads to anxiety, and regrets from the past often lead to depression. Mindfulness helps us to get centered in the present and create gratitude for what we have with us right now. Let's get started.
The first way, and the simplest way I typically suggest my client utilize mindfulness in their daily routines is through going outside for a walk. Seems pretty harmless right? So, during the walk, we are taking the time to notice the things that are around us. Paying attention to the senses will help us remember what to look for. What do hear, see, smell? How does the air around you feel? Is it dry or humid? Take a sip of water. How does it taste and feel on your tongue? Before you know it, five minutes have gone by and you have focused on nothing else but the present moment.
Another good way to practice mindfulness is through the help of guided meditation. There are multiple ways to do this. You can download an app onto your phone, or you can literally just google "guided meditation" and choose from the multiple results you get. The apps that I am a fan of are Headspace and Calm. If you are a runner, you can download the Nike Run app, and go to the guided runs section for meditations while running. Added bonus to that - not only are you de-stressing through exercise, but you are also building awareness and grounding through the guided meditation the coach is leading you through. Pretty sweet huh?
How does this tie into dog ownership? I'm glad you asked! You can do a grounding exercise with your dog right now! Start by taking a comfortable seated position next to your dog. Place them into a "sit" and take a few deep breaths. Start petting your pup along his sides, his face or his ears. Notice the feeling of his fur, notice how he is acting towards you. Is he focused on you? Is he calm? How is his breathing? Now, focus back to yourself. How is your breathing? Heart rate? How are you feelings? Anxious, sad, happy? Keep shifting focus from yourself to your dog for a few minutes, all while taking deep breaths in and out. See if it makes a difference for you!
Last but not least, a great way to get a large dose of mindfulness would be to take a yoga class. Much like the Nike Run app, yoga incorporates movement along with meditation, which gives you a two fold benefit including physical fitness and peace of mind. During yoga, the teacher moves you through a sequence of postures and stretches, all while reminding you to remain in the moment with your practice. Gentle music, along with a final resting meditation makes this practice such a great activity to add to your weekly routines. If you're feeling really brave, give Hot Yoga a try! It can help relax the muscles a little more for a better stretch, plus it allows your body to sweat more and detox.
I hope this helped you understand mindfulness just a little more, and maybe even changed your mind about it. You don't have to be super spiritual or religious to get the benefits from it, even if it is as little as 5 minutes a day. The flexibility and convenience of this daily practice may seem like not that big of a deal, but I guarantee it will change the way you think, feel and behave with continued practice. Get out there and see what works best for you!
As always, be well and wag on!