Well, I think the first thing I need to start with is transparency. I am not a mindfulness expert, nor do I have any official training in this area. I tell you that because I think it is important to acknowledge this whole mindfulness thing is legit. People do a lot of training to learn about, and facilitate mindfulness. My colleague has her certificate in Integrated Mindfulness and her training included 8 courses that were about 15 hours each… that is a lot of material to cover folks! Here is how she describes mindfulness:
Mindfulness is essentially described as paying attention, in the present moment, non-judgmentally. Regular mindfulness practices such as meditation have far reaching health benefits-overall the health benefits range from: lowering blood pressure, stress and pain management, better quality sleep, emotional regulation, and less reactivity to situations -Sheryl Haynes
I am fascinated by mindfulness for use in my own (and my family’s) life. I have seen it be revolutionary for my clients, students and for people in my own life. There is so much research and science behind this now that we actually have a program here in British Columbia (BCALM BC Association for Living Mindfully) that with a doctor’s referral you can attend an eight-week course on the art of living mindfully (ALM) for free. I think it says a lot about the validity of something when doctors are referring to it and our medical system is agreeing to pay for it.
Here are some of the reasons a doctor might refer to a program like ALM: chronic pain, anxiety, depression and cancer. I have had friends go through mindfulness programs for anxiety and chronic pain and our mom attended a few mindfulness classes while she was going through her cancer treatments. My point is, this is not just some new ‘hyped up fad’. We are not talking about a vaginal jade egg here (if you are unfamiliar with this gem, click here– sorry couldn’t help myself?). There is loads of science and research behind this. It is not going anywhere. In fact, I think the practice of mindfulness is just going to continue to grow as we discover more uses and benefits.
Don’t I look peaceful here?? Seriously though, no props necessary to practice being mindful.
Basically, the point is not to stop thinking about things but to just notice our thoughts and not attach a judgment to them. I know, easier said than done. If you are anything like me, the idea of not thinking about what you are thinking about it is a big ask. I seriously keep myself up at night sometimes analyzing everything from what I am thinking, to how my body feels, to what I said throughout the day. There is a lot of judgment happening and I can tell you right now it does not serve me. This over analyzing of everything has been a big source of anxiety for me since I was a kid (post coming soon on anxiety and panic disorders). The old school way to deal with these anxious or over analyzing thoughts was fight them or just tell yourself to stop. In my experience, this rarely works! It is basically like saying don’t picture a big purple elephant right now. Let me guess what you just pictured…
Mindfulness is more about noticing our thoughts from a curious, non – judgmental place and trying to keep ourselves in the moment.
We are so programmed to be going non – stop that for many of us it can be hard to sit down and ‘do nothing’, we feel guilty for taking a mental health break.
Many of us waste so much of our time either obsessing about mistakes from our past or worrying about our future instead of trying to just stay present. A common exercise participants who are learning to practice mindfulness begin with is eating a raisin. I know, the first time I heard this I thought I misheard, I didn’t. So, if you are up for your first experiment with mindfulness this is a good starting point. You can check out one variation of it here. By the way, it does not need to be a raisin, it can be pretty much anything. I have often had clients practice a similar exercise with a cup of herbal tea. Same principles apply. All of this takes practice and patience.
I have been interested in ‘mindfulness’ stuff for years. I have practised yoga for years and been dipping in and out of practicing meditation for years. I have used these practices for all sorts of things including, coping with an ill/dying parent, parenting, work stress, managing my lupus, and well being in general.
As working moms, we are so programmed to be going non – stop that for many of us it can be hard to sit down and ‘do nothing’, we feel guilty for taking a mental health break. Interestingly though, research tells us that as little as 10 minutes day of a mindfulness practice can benefit our physical, spiritual, mental and emotional health. If you can find the time to watch an hour of Netflix a day, or spend 10 minutes or more on social media, you can find 10 minutes to do something that actually has the potential to make you a happier, healthier person.
My top 3 resources for learning about and practicing mindfulness
1.This is a short Ted Talk by the guy who created the meditation app Headspace. This is a great app for first time and regular meditators.
2.Insight Timer app. This is my favourite. There are timers, guided meditations, you can see who else is meditating in your area and so much more. There are incredible guided meditations for kids too. My girls loving using this app if they are having trouble sleeping. Best part, it’s free.
3.Mindful.org this is a great resource for all things mindfulness. You can read about the research and science behind mindfulness, discover tools for practicing and more.
Grab our free working mom mini mindfulness workbook HERE
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