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Practicing Mindfulness

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Practicing Mindfulness During COVID-19

 

Focus on Your Four Domains

Physical, Mental, Spiritual and Social/Emotional


MINDFULNESS GUIDE

I.  Introduction to Mindfulness
II. Meditative Mindfulness Exercises
III. Mindfulness Activities for Kids and Families


I. Introduction to Mindfulness

 

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. It’s carefully observing our thoughts and feelings without judging them as good or bad.

How Does Mindfulness Help?

Practicing mindfulness eases symptoms of stress and anxiety, improves sleep, helps to control temper, better able someone to set boundaries and say “no”, increases self confidence. It helps us see things so that we can make more thoughtful decisions and reactions.

In children, mindfulness activities improve listening skills and help to improve academic engagement.

Mindfulness Myths

MYTH 1: Mindfulness’s goal is to quiet the mind

While some people do find that their minds quiet down a bit, the goal of mindfulness is to be aware of the thoughts, feelings, sensations you are having without judging them as good or bad. 

MYTH 2: You need to set aside lots of time to practice mindfulness

There are lots of ways to practice mindfulness, some formal, some that just take a couple of seconds. We’ll provide you with lots of examples of things you can do – take what works, leave what doesn’t, and add your own. Do it your way!

MYTH 3: If your mind is wandering, you’re not doing it right.

While lots of exercises involve focusing on something, if your mind wanders, it doesn’t mean that you’re not being mindful! In fact, you are actually being aware of where your thoughts are going. Acknowledge your thoughts, avoid judging them, and then gently move your attention back to what you are focusing on. 

MYTH 4: Mindfulness is something you do alone

One benefit of mindfulness is to help us better connect with others. There are a variety of activities that we can do with others to practice mindful listening, mindful conflict resolution, and mindful appreciation.

 

 

II. Meditative Mindfulness Exercises

 

1. Mindful Breathing

This is a great place to start. The more you practice, the easier it will be to relax after just a few breaths. Even just 15 deep breaths has been shown to help someone feel calmer and less anxious. 

Find a comfortable place to sit. Close your eyes if you feel comfortable; otherwise, let your eyelids droop a little. Pay attention to where your hands are falling, where your tongue feels most comfortable, where your weight is sitting. Try to relax the different parts of your body. Move your attention to your breaths, and just breathe. If you are stressed out, some deeper, more structured breaths might help to start out with (breathe in for 3 beats, hold for 2, out for 4), but your natural breathing should work too. 

Feel the air move in and out of your body. Where do you feel the breath? Is the air in your abdomen, your nose, your throat? How does your body move as you breathe? How does the air smell?

If your thoughts start to wander, notice them briefly. Say to yourself, “I am thinking about x” without judging those thoughts. Give yourself permission to come back to these thoughts later, and then gently and kindly move your attention back to your breaths. 

Sit like this as long as you feel comfortable, some people can only do this for a minute or two at first. Then bring your attention back to the space around you, and appreciate yourself and your ability to breathe.

2. Body Scan

Begins with some mindful breathing described above. Then move your attention to the different parts of your body. Some find it helpful to start at the toes and work their way up to the head, or the other way around. Focus on each body part. What do you feel? Is it warm, or cool? Is it tingly? Try to relax the muscles in each body part. Some find it helpful to tense or wiggle each body part first, and then relaxing the muscles. If your mind starts to wander, notice the thoughts, and give yourself permission to come back to them later. Gently and kindly move your attention back to the body scan.  Appreciate yourself for caring about your body.

3. Activating the Senses

  • Start with some mindful breathing as described above. And then focus on each of your 5 senses. For each sense, name 3 things that your sense is picking up.
  • Look at the space around you. Notice 3 things. State to yourself, “I see…x”, “I see…z” 
  • Notice 3 things that you hear. State these things to yourself. It could by your breathing, people talking in the distance, silence.
  • Notice 3 things that you smell – some perfume, your shampoo, food being prepped in the kitchen, the way the air smells. State these 3 things to yourself.
  • Notice 3 things you are touching. Perhaps the clothes on your skin, the ground under your feet, the breath through your nose. State these 3 things to yourself. 
  • Notice what you taste – perhaps the taste of lunch lingering in your mouth, or take a sip of water and see what it tastes like. Take a moment to appreciate your senses.

4. Floating Away

This is good if you’re having troubles focusing on something, or even falling asleep. By taking a minute to acknowledge your distractions, and letting them drift a way for a moment, you can bring your attention back to the task at hand or relax enough to fall asleep. This doesn’t get rid of your problems, but gives you some space to relax and decide your next steps.

Either close or gently relax your eyes, and begin with some mindful breathing as discussed above. Picture yourself in a peaceful, outdoor place. Let your mind wander for a bit. Notice the thoughts that are coming across. Now start to look at the thoughts causing you anxiety or stress. One by one, give them a name (for instance, a disagreement with a friend you might just label “fight with x”). Now picture yourself writing that label on either a leaf or a balloon. Gently picture yourself either letting the balloon go in the breeze, drifting away from you, or placing the leaf in a stream and being carried away downstream. Keep going. Some larger issues or difficulties you may need to let go of many, many times. That’s okay. Some things take longer to heal from. However, give yourself permission to let it go just for this moment,      …        so that you can focus or relax. Go as long as you feel comfortable and feel good. As you finish, appreciate your ability to survive and heal. 

Some people find it hard to do these exercises without being guided by someone. Here are some links to some gentle, and guided mindfulness activities.

Mindfulness Resources


5-minute Meditation You Can Do Anywhere


6 minute Body Scan


3 minutes Body Scan


Mindful Breathing


 

III. Mindfulness Activities for Kids and Families

 

Family Sharing

At the beginning or end of each day, share 1 thing you’re proud of, 1 thing you’re grateful or thankful for, and 1 thing you can do today to be kind to yourself. Each person take their turn, and really listen to the other person/people. 

Mindful Listening 

With a partner – Person 1 says the first 3 thoughts that come to mind. Person 2 repeats those 3 thoughts back to person 1 as closely as possible. Switch places and repeat the exercise. Acknowledge how it feels to be listened to and to have your words repeated back to you. How does it feel to look at someone carefully as they speak? How is this different than the usual way we listen?

Mindful Eating 

This works best with something like an orange. Take a moment and focus on the skin of the orange and notice how it feels in your hands. Look at the orange and see the shape, colors or unique qualities of your orange. Slowly peel the orange, notice the smell of the zest. Notice how the rind feels. Does removing the rind make a sound? Slowly eat your orange one slice at a time. Take a moment to sit with each sense. Take your time and enjoy 

Take 5 Breathing (great for kids!)

Take a pointer finger, and trace the other hand, just as you would if you were tracing your handprint on paper with a pen. Go slowly, feel your finger move along your hand. Take breaths as you move the finger. Breathe in as you travel up one of your fingers, breathe out as you travel down a finger. Repeat on the other hand

Balancing Games

Have a balancing competition. See how long someone can balance on one leg. Make it more difficult by holding a conversation, and distracting them. Then, have them close their eyes while they do some deep breathing. Is it easier or harder? What senses do they need to use in order to balance? If you have several people, hold a competition to see who can balance the longest.

Rhythm of The Heart

Have your kids find their heart beat. Have them focus on it, try to see where in their body they can feel it. Next, have your kids stand up and jump around for a couple of minutes – jumping jacks, dancing, anything to get their hearts beating harder. After a couple of minutes, have them sit down, close their eyes, and find their heartbeat again. How much faster is it? Can they feel it in different places in their body? Can they feel their body breathing? Is the heartbeat slowing down? Getting fainter? How is their breath changing as time passes? How is their heartbeat changing?  This is a great refocusing activity if kids are having trouble paying attention to their school work.