Mindfulness matters. Many studies have demonstrated this over and over again, especially related to anxiety and depression. So, to celebrate the fact that we can use our minds to alleviate our suffering, we have gotten together to share some of our favorite mindfulness activities. You CAN use these at home!
Why we use Mindfulness:
Neurologically we know that it helps bring the parasympathetic nervous system online, which is the system that is our default, calm self. When we use mindfulness, we are able to respond to the environment and those around us with more care and kindness instead of working out of the sympathetic nervous system, which comes online when there is a perceived sense of threat. When we work out of our sympathetic nervous system, we are cranky, fearful, and often angry because we are primed for a “battle” of any sort that might be around the corner. Even people who often have a difficult time with meditation or guided imagery are able to utilize mindfulness effectively. Many people find instant relief for migraines, somatic pain, anxiety, and grounding after a tough emotional experience.
We use mindfulness to connect to our bodies and ourselves. We start to feel more relaxed and less anxiety when we do this. We use these exercises to gain insight from a “non-critical” point of view. It typically calms the pressure in the chest, the sinking in the stomach, and tension in the shoulders.
In short, it de-stresses and us. It helps us practice pointing our awareness at something else (other than what we are anxious about.)
When to use Mindfulness:
If you catch yourself having these thoughts, or noticing these things- it is a good time to try an exercise:
"I'm so anxious right now."
"I'm stressed out."
"What the heck am I even feeling?"
"Work sucks right now."
"Why am so impatient?"
Another time you can use these is when you notice something is happening in your body that is uncomfortable and/or distressing.
Exercises to try at home:
#1- The Light Stream Technique
We do a slightly different version of this often in session, but there is a good recording here if you'd like to do it at home! This one especially helps if you are overwhelmed emotionally, or feeling hyperaroused, or overly anxious.
#2- Getting the Scoop
Bring attention to your body and notice the areas where you are holding tension. If you can’t pinpoint them right away, start from your feet and gradually scan your body going all the way up to your head. Start breathing slow breaths in and out, with the exhale being longer than the inhale. Imagine “scooping” out the tension from each part of your body where you are holding it or simply breathing out the tension with each exhale. Do this until you start to feel more relaxed or less anxiety.
#3- Meditation Coupled with Deep Breathing
Meditation and focusing on the breath helps to settle the mind and become more connected with soul and body. The headspace app is very helpful. There are some meditations that include walking and other movement, which can be especially helpful! It is great to practice awareness and presence as we are moving about instead of mindlessly hurrying around.
#4- Picture This
Picture you sitting outside of yourself. Observe your posture, breathing patterns, movement, facial expressions, and thoughts and feelings. As you observe, take a curious perspective. Just notice where you are at in that moment. Simply become aware of what is happening on the inside from an external and observing position.
#5- Mindfulness Through an Activity
Eating: Be mindful around an activity such as eating. Slow down, think about all the nuances of the food you're eating. Where did it come from? How it was prepared? How does it smell? What's the consistency? Identify the taste, etc.
Moving: Be mindful around a more bodily movement such as yoga. Slow down, think about all the muscles that are moving. Picture them. Notice their sensations as you do a slow roll down your body. Feel gravity pulling on you in different places.
Brushing Your Teeth: Close your eyes. Brush one tooth at a time. Envision that tooth as it is brushed from all angles.
You can do the same! Take anything you do and turn it into a mindful activity. Be creative! What do you do every day that could be a time for you to stop and be mindful?
If you would like to learn more or work with a therapist- please feel free to reach out to us.
The Phoenix Counseling Collective,
Caleb, Elisa, Andy, Kim, Molly, & Brittany